The Artful Way to Eat an Artichoke at the Formal Dinner Table


There is art, if not also artifice, in the proper eating of an artichoke. Presented in all its prehistoric-looking, botanical glory, an artichoke, actually the flower bud of the artichoke plant, can prove intimidating or, at best, bewildering, to the novice. Traditionally, the “vegetable,” which resembles a cross between a pine cone and a breadfruit—or a sugar apple on steroids—is boiled or steam-cooked and presented on a salad plate with a separate, little bowl of melted butter or some other sauce or dip. A second salad plate is sometimes presented to serve as a depository for the fibrous remnants of the eaten leaves.

The leaves of an artichoke are always to be plucked off the bud and conveyed to the mouth by the fingers—no matter how formal the occasion. (Thank God for finger bowls!) Beginning at the bottom of the bud, each leaf is individually plucked by its tip. The base of each leaf is then dipped into the provided sauce and placed into the mouth as the tip of the leaf is held fast by the fingers. The succulent base of the leaf is then pulled through slightly clenched front teeth (incisors) so as to separate the flesh from the fibrous portions of the leaf. The fibrous portion of the leaf, still being held by the fingers, is then placed onto the extra plate or towards the upper left side of the plate on which the artichoke is presented if no extra plate has been provided. The process is continued, leaf by leaf, until all the leaves have been consumed and the heart of the bulb, arguably its most delicious part, is revealed.

Held in place by the fork, the hairlike covering of the heart should delicately be scraped away with the knife. At last, the “fond,” the base-core of the heart, is found! It is then eaten with knife and fork, flavored with the sauce.

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