The Artichoke

My knife cut through the first layer of prickly green leaves, and then I used my bare hands to finish the job. The artichoke was armed; I was still left with the nasty choke in the center, fuzzy and impenetrable. Jonathan arrived. I was hesitant, but I finally asked the question.

'Would you like to ask her to dinner?'

' I'll think about it...' He picked up a prickly leaf, and played with it.

It was not what I wanted to hear. I wanted him to say 'that would be lovely' the way he used to when I offered to cook for his friends and lovers. He would joke: how much better could it be? Female chef. Roommate. Not interested. Friend. But it was clear something had gone wrong, and he did not want to talk about it at all. This one had been too young for him. I knew it all along. He always fell for beauty. But I was just his roommate; he didn't want a friend right now. He kept silent, sliced a lemon and starting rubbing the growing pile of artichokes whose last defense, the choke, would have to be boiled out.

'I have Cornish hens, and wild rice. Salmon mousse to start, don't you think...?'

'I said I'll think about it.' He whispered, and that's when I saw the pain rolling down his face. Tears fell onto his hand and then on to the lemon that was cupped in his palm. I stepped out the hot kitchen, and sat the on the balcony. I knew how much he hated to be seen crying.

I came back in and boiled the artichokes in lemon water. Then I watched as he removed the choke and stuffed the remaining pod with a mixture of some of the hearts removed, tiny minced shrimp, and peas. Next he drizzled on fruity olive oil, split them in half and then baked them underneath a sharp blanket of parmesan.

Marilyn Monroe was an Artichoke Queen in 1948, but long before that a young beauty named Zinari had angered the gods. Hurtled by thunderbolts of jealousy she was turned into a prickly artichoke forever. I wondered what he thought as he had plucked out the hearts, boiled them and now stuffed in his mouth.

When I lost the love of my life last year he cooked me bouillabaisse with lobster. We drank French brandy, and I cried all night long. He cried too, but I didn't know why at the time. It was kind of him to share in my grief. Somehow I wanted to do the same, but if I had known earlier that he had lost the love of his life, I would not have brought artichokes home for dinner.

About the author:

Diana Adams is an Alberta based writer working on her novel 'The Taste of Blue'. With a degree in English and one in Culinary Arts, she tends to incorporate food into her writing. She is avoiding the 17th century cookbooks, as they lean towards cannibalism. Her short stories have appeared in Literary Potpourri, and her poetry is forthcoming in Jones Av., in Toronto.