Gnarly, Prickly Pleasure
My Beloved is a traveling salesman - he normally drives about 600 miles per week, all over Northern California and Northern Nevada (he even has responsibilities in Hawaii - I go with him on those trips!). He represents upwards of a dozen different factories so he's on the road quite a bit. If you ask him what he does for a living, he will say with a twinkle, "I drive around and talk to people."
It's the perfect job for a car guy who has never met a stranger. It's also the perfect job for bringing back edibles from all over our area.
When he goes to Fresno, he comes home with fresh nuts from the Valley, big bags of pistachios or mixed nuts. When he goes to Sacramento, sometimes he stops in Davis to get olive oil from the university. Carson City in Northern Nevada has a wonderful butcher. When he goes down to Monterey, he has a standing order from me to stop at Pezzini Farms for artichokes.
This week, we are eating Pezzini's best, the frost-nipped artichokes. Bob Peckham, our grocer for the first several years that I lived here, taught us that frost-nipped artichokes are the best. They look gnarly like this, with a haze of white over the fresh green leaves and they are prickly little suckers, but they taste like they have been blessed by the patron saint of artichokes. They are sweeter than a normal artichoke, something that apparently the frost brings out. Pezzini knows this, too, and they charge a little extra for the frost damage. That always makes me smile - only in America.
When we get these wonderful ones, we don't gussy them up, we just steam them for about 20 minutes, sometimes in water with wine vinegar added, and serve them with a little dish of lemon butter, then savor them leaf by meaty leaf until we reach the heart. Dipped in the lemon butter and popped in the mouth, the heart of a frost-nipped artichoke is as close to heaven as a vegetable can be.
My fourth and final career, and my most satisfying one, was as a career counselor; I loved my work for more than 20 years. It's no wonder, then, that I am content knowing that My Beloved is in the perfect job for him. Especially when he's been foraging and bringing home treats.