Mine was in 1969. A classmate of my then-boyfriend invited us over for dinner to meet his new girlfriend. Apparently they were getting pretty serious and classmate Neil thought it was time for us all to meet. Violet was petite, pretty, graceful, intelligent, and, Neil said, a wonderful cook. That night she made us a lovely dinner of beef bourguignon, with perfectly seared beef braised in a delicious red wine sauce.
But for our first course, Vi set out steamed artichokes on square white plates and supplied each of us with a small bowl of creamy mayonnaise mixed with fresh lemon juice. When I confessed I’d never eaten an artichoke before, she kindly explained the process.
She had used scissors to cut off the sharp points of each leaf, and a sturdy knife to cut off the fibrous tops. Then she removed the long stems on the bottom so the artichoke would stand upright. After rubbing lemon halves on the tops and tossing the lemons into a large pot of water, Violet steamed the artichokes for about 30 minutes.
Then, dipping a leaf end into the lemon mayonnaise, she showed me how to slide each piece silkily between my teeth. One leaf at a time, we made our way to the middle of the vegetable until we got to the heart of the matter.
At that point, my then-boyfriend took over and showed me how to gently disgorge the spiky fuzzy bits around the middle and then enjoy the meaty part… the reward at the end of all that work. What an interesting food, I thought; it seemed I had more on my plate when I finished than when I started! But it was delicious, all at once lemony and sweet, and I felt so sophisticated as I began to master the technique.
Fast forward all these years: the “then-boyfriend” is the “now-husband,” and last week, for no reason in particular, we had artichokes with lemon mayonnaise every night. It made us nostalgic for those old days, and in fact, Violet, if you’re reading this, expect a call very soon!
Whether you use melted butter, lemon mayo, aioli, or any other dip, we think you’ll find that the prize is worth the work when it comes to artichokes. And if you meet a guy who can patiently teach you how to get to the heart of it, we suggest you hang on tight!