The End of the Artichokes

     My parents grew up in Texas and Arizona and so even though our family lived in southwestern Colorado when I was a child, my mom would occasionally splurge for some artichokes at the grocery store.  I was well aware of how dear these were, I’m not sure we even got one each, and I have loved them my whole life.  I took a packet of seeds with me to Kathmandu and our gardener, Ram, put them in.  We may have had 12 plants one spring and it was so much fun to bring basketsful of them to our faculty room to treat Americans and Europeans who pined for them.  Our Nepali friends wanted to get in on it, but there’s just too much to cooking and eating one.  I didn’t know where to begin to explain it. 
     The abundance of artichokes in Tunisia has been a wonder.  They have been coming in by truckloads for several months, giving an interested cook that opportunity to finally explore all of those artichoke preparations she had read about, but never tried.
     But I can tell that we’re getting down to the end, now.  They are still in good shape in the market, but there are just a handful.  I wanted to buy 20 artichokes on Sunday and I bought 18, cleaning out that vendor.
     I wanted to can artichoke hearts which sounds to me like a completely luxurious thing to do.  I couldn’t even quite think of how to do it and then when I was in Rome, I met Giorgio.  I was at a dinner party on the first night and my table companions were lamenting about a little brain drain that is happening in Italy with many of their brightest and most talented moving off to London or New York, but this is not where I met Giorgio.  I met him the next day at a bookstore with an English section.  He is a celebrity Italian chef who owns a famous restaurant in London called Locanda Locatelli.  He is exactly what my dinner hosts were talking about and he has a beautiful cookbook that I will cook through page by page… this time.

     He did offer a recipe for canning artichokes a sort of hmmph… who would need instructions on doing that anyway.  It wasn’t actually that bad to hand peel 18 whole artichokes.  My hands are a little tender today, but no permanent damage.  I would say end to end, it only took me two hours.  I haven’t tried them yet, but all of the jars sealed, which is the first triumph of canning.  And now I can let the artichoke season pass in peace.

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