Being misperceived is an excruciatingly painful experience for me. When there’s no logic behind the misperception, I feel like life is just spinning wildly out of control. I can’t grasp the notion of wanting to believe bad things about people. I’d rather not even ever choose to. Life should be about uncovering beauty, not exposing pain.
My beautiful garden is not big enough to bandage such a wound. But if it were to rain again today, I’d go sit in it again. I will do that this evening, either way, while the big boy is at baseball. In the meantime, I’m working to hold my head together.
So let’s consider the artichoke. My mom bought them once a year or so. She would rinse them and shake them dry. Snip the sharp tips off the ends of each leaf, or just whack off the whole top. Mix together Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and oil, then stuff some of that down into each leaf. After all of them were filled, she sprinkled the rest of the mixture on top, and cooked them in her pressure cooker, which has to have water added, the top secured, the setting adjusted carefully. I liked watching the top rattle as the steam rose.
My mom’s family was Italian, but I rarely saw them use olive oil, just Mazola or Wesson, etc. Barely even actual butter as opposed to margarine. And I’m pretty sure the cheese she used wasn’t as good as the cheese I can buy at most grocery stores in New Jersey, though the cheese for the artichokes did come from an Italian specialty store. But those artichokes were special. You pull off the leaves one at a time, working your way from the outside into the center. The moist, blended stuffing is there to enjoy, and then a bit of marrow at the base of the leaf. You scrape your teeth against the leaf to get it all off, then discard the leaf in a bowl next to your plate. When you get to the center, there’s this fuzzy section that I never liked as a child, but do now. And the tender, sort of naturally marinated heart now exposed, to be relished with a spoon.
You see what a process that is. It’s absorbing. You have no choice but to fully engage in that experience, and you’d be a fool not to enjoy it. Artichokes are strange, some might say ugly vegetables. They're prickly and can cut your fingers. They hardly look edible. Only parts of them are edible, in fact. But those parts are a treat, really a treasure. It’s worth overcoming the initial misperception.
My mom never grew artichokes, probably never even saw a plant. But I have. I’ve grown some myself, and several are waiting right now for me to pick them. It feels amazing. I follow an artichoke grower on Twitter, they post lots of links to interesting artichoke recipes. I’m going to make them like mom did first, though. She knew no other method. I’ll steam them in a glass pan in the oven, because I don’t have a pressure cooker. I have access to higher-quality ingredients than she did, and my artichokes will be freshly harvested from my own garden.
No way they’ll taste better than hers, though, at least not the first time. But that’s cool. I’ll be painting a memory. And I want to savor the reward from a time-consuming and prickly effort.
Thoughts a bit shoved off track, we’ll consider the circles, moon, and music next time.