the thistle that almost destroyed our marriage

by Stacy

A few years ago I spotted an artful heap of beautiful in-season artichokes at the grocery store. I pointed them out to my husband who asked, “Do you want to get some?”

My face lit up at his interest. I love artichokes. He held a produce bag for me as I carefully selected two beautiful specimens which I suggested for dinner on Sunday. He agreed.

Sunday rolled around and I was excited for dinner. I washed and trimmed the artichokes, steamed them for 45 minutes (they’re huge!), stood at the stove for 20 minutes whisking a small pan of homemade Hollandaise sauce until it thickened, then plated everything. An empty bowl for leaves was in the middle of the table, a ramekin of sauce was next to each plate. We had water, wine, napkins…

“So what else are we having?”
“Yeah, artichokes and what else?”
Uhh… your Hollandaise sauce is right there.
“What goes on the side?”
The Hollandaise. It’s on the side. See? Right there.
“No, like a side.”

We don’t fight very often, but there was a serious disagreement over dinner. It ended with me eating both artichokes and him making his own dinner.

i have a lovely bunch of artichokes

Artichokes are very serious business.

Now we have very specific conversations about our meal expectations with artichokes. We got these small artichokes on our road trip — 5 for $1! — which have a higher heart-to-leaf ratio, they cook faster, and they aren’t a whole meal so my husband gets other dishes with dinner. Everyone is happy!

Normally I serve the artichokes whole. You peel off the leaves and scrape the tender part of it off with your teeth, preferably after dipping it in some type of sauce. When you reach the center the fuzzy, spiky “choke” has to be scraped out to reveal the heart (the best part). In the photo below I actually sliced them in half and scooped the chokes out before we ate.

Since our usual rich, buttery Hollandaise wouldn’t have worked well with the rest of the menu, I improvised a bit and came up with an incredible and quick alternative.

Do you like artichokes? How do you normally prepare them?
Has a vegetable or food has polarized your relationship?


Steamed Artichokes

Figure 1 large artichoke per person


  • 1-4 artichokes
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic


  1. Trim the artichokes by slicing off the woody stem, then slice off the bottom of the artichoke so that it’s flat. Remove the top few leaves if they seem tough. If it’s a large artichoke, use kitchen shears to snip off the sharp bottoms of the outside leaves.
  2. Place the artichokes in a large pot with a lid. Fill the pot with water until the water reaches halfway up the artichokes. Add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice, a tablespoon of olive oil, and garlic to the water.
  3. Bring to a boil, them simmer until the stem is easily pierced with a knife (about 20 minutes for small artichokes, up to 45 minutes for large ones). Remove and let drain before serving.
  4. Serve whole, or cut in half and remove fuzzy chokes before serving if preferred.

Spicy Caper Butter

Serves 2


  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained, and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • if using unsalted butter, a bare sprinkle of salt


  1. Place a small pan over medium-low heat. Add pepper flakes and stir until fragrant, about a minute.
  2. Add capers and butter. Melt butter, stirring occasionally. Cook about 5 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle. Add a touch of salt if needed. Serve immediately.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

olivia November 15, 2010 at 8:42 am

i love artichokes. i don’t normally bite the meat off leaves and throw them into a bowl, i tried that once and was grossed out. shawn likes to do that and dip them in mayo. i prefer the hearts steamed in or out of a sauce.


Auntie Mona November 15, 2010 at 9:02 am

Tom HATES brusell sprouts. The first time I made them, I sliced em and sauteed in butter. He got a slice that was a little too brown…he got really mad. I think something else had made him mad and the sprouts were the last straw. We had a huge fight about brussel sprouts and everything else. He stomped around and I cried. It was terrible. I still love them and try different recipes but now make sure to have additional choices for him. My last effort involved bacon in with the saute. He tried a couple, but still didn’t like them. Nice ones from the farmers’ market, still on the stick., and he can’t abide them. I guess I give up. I hate beets and nothing will ever change my mind on that. Golly, maybe he likes beets? Beets n brussel sprouts? gross


TreeHugginMomma November 15, 2010 at 10:30 am

I have to say I’m with your husband. I love artichoke hearts, but whole artichokes mystify me, its just to much work for my food (don’t worry I don’t like Lobster and crab for the same reasons).


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