Artichokes. Sturdy. Proud little bulbs. Beautiful.
I adored them as a little girl. Steamed. Simple. Pure food.
A whole artichoke, just for me. Seated at the family table in our restaurant, sitting cross-legged on the red vinyl bench. The blue plastic tablecloth was bright. Fishing nets hung from the ceiling. My eating cave, my playground. The family table knew me. It knew my ways. My green artichoke. On white. The plate placed before me. A small bowl of lemony, rich, melted, salty butter had its place next to the plate. Paper napkins tucked into my collar. Long, wild, messy hair pulled into a high bun. Then. Left to my own devices.
One leaf at a time. Plucked. Dunked into lemony, rich, melted, salty butter. In my cave. Sound buzzed, movement rustled around me. A till closing. Waitresses talking. I wasn’t listening. Pluck. Pluck. Pluck. Dunk. Butter dripped from my chin.
Last leaf… The final pluck – ferocious. Savoured. Blue plastic tablecloth – a battleground scene. Limp leaves. Remnants – scattered. I had won – nearly.
Dad appeared, just in time. The heart, I wanted the heart. No need to speak. My face glistened. The sheen of buttered glory. Dad just knew. Sliced down the middle. Halves. Choke removed, discarded, added to the battleground. Two more bites left. Lemony, rich, melted, salty butter was gone. I didn’t want it anymore anyway. Heart. No butter necessary. Sweet, nutty, soft. Last bite…
Scoop limp leaves up. Wipe mouth. Walk through the courtyard. Enter the kitchen. Artichoke time – over. My cave opens to the masses.