How I Used an Artichoke to Teach My Children About Mindful Eating
I have a rule in my home, at least for the people who live there: You must sit down to eat. Whether it’s a full meal or just a box of raisins, take a seat, and don’t forget to chew. Enforcing this rule takes constant effort. Some foods — the ones that demand attention, like artichokes — make it easy. They’ll thank me when they’re older, right?
I remember clearly my first meeting with an artichoke, when I was eight years old. In early spring, my mother and I took an overnight trip to the lowcountry near Charleston, South Carolina to visit my godmother, one of my mother’s best friends from college. We arrived in the late afternoon, and I was left to my own devices. I don’t remember whether I explored the house, or read a book, both likely possibilities.
Eventually, I made my way into the kitchen, where my mother and her friend were seated at a table in front of a large picture window overlooking a lush backyard, sipping wine (which seemed impossibly sophisticated) and eating something I had never seen before. They dipped each spiny green leaf into a bowl of warm butter, removing the meat by pulling each leaf between their teeth, a constant stream of conversation between each bite, about old friends, new hairdos, good books, and several things I didn’t understand. They dabbed their fingers on pressed linen napkins when necessary. They let me try the artichoke, though not the chardonnay, and I was in love. Artichokes seemed like the most glamorous snack in the world.
As it happens, my children love them, too, though they never experienced the thrill I did, having enjoyed them from a much younger age. As a vehicle for melted butter, they can’t be beat. There are times when we add anchovy, garlic and olive oil to make a bagna cauda, but butter will always do.
And you cannot meander around the kitchen with an artichoke. You need somewhere to put the discarded leaves, a bowl for melted butter, and a knife and fork for the denouement, the delicious heart of the flowery vegetable. Artichokes can only be eaten mindfully. There really is no other way.