I have often wondered the same thing-- how did it come to be that someone looked at an artichoke and thought "Hey, here is something to eat" ? Now I know.
|FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Working on my scholarly treatise entitled “Weird Stuff as Food” has been an exhausting, frustrating and often heart-breaking mental exercise. If the Really Useless Information Foundation hadn’t provided such a generous grant, I’m quite sure I would have scrapped the whole project long ago. However, whatever the personal sacrifices I have had to endure, the mental anguish will have been worthwhile if I can at least trace the origin of the artichoke as food. Who, I wondered endlessly, came upon the thorny plant, pricked his finger on the lethal thistle and exclaimed as he wiped the dripping blood from his finger, “Hot diggity dog, I think I found myself a brand new food!” That just can’t be how it happened. After exhaustive research, I believe I’ve stumbled upon a hypothesis that scholars will agree presents the most compelling explanation.
The origin of the artichoke undoubtedly had its roots in Berkeley, California. The artichoke, then called the antichoke, was used as a military weapon. You simply lobbed the choke at your enemy in much the same way a grenade is tossed. The effects of the antichoke could be lethal as it pricked its hapless victim to a slow, painful death.
Socially enraged students of the university were appalled by these death machines and openly protested their use. “Ban the Choke” became their impassioned battle cry. They carried placards, held rallies, but still the warmongers persisted. To their chagrin, the rest of the country paid the protestors no heed. “Just those crazies at Berkeley acting out again” was the national response.
Frustrated, the students were stymied how to draw attention to the problem. Finally, they decided to stage an enormous rally. They thought it was unfortunate that a 24-hour cable news show hadn’t been invented yet. “CNN would have covered this around the clock,” they sadly reasoned. Doing the best they could in those technologically-challenged times, they sent out press releases and invited the press to a massive demonstration.
When the big day arrived and the media were in place, the students rounded up all the antichokes they could find and tossed them into a giant caldron of boiling water.
Art, a local entrepreneur, hoping he could turn a quick buck at the event, set up a food stand near the steaming pot. Business was booming as he served up hamburgers, tacos and fresh-corn-on-the-cob dripping with melted butter.
By a strange twist of fate, a cooked antichoke ended up in Art’s pot of melted butter. Sensing disaster, Art, in a moment of inspired genius, pulled off one of the leaves of the antichoke, dunked it in the melted butter, tasted it, and loudly proclaimed it yummy. Soon the students and the press, always up for something new and free food, were devouring the once-dreaded thistle. Surely a momentous day when such an evil weapon can be converted and transformed into a peaceful use.
In Art’s honor, the antichoke was renamed the artichoke. Now, many years later, the sleepy little town of Castroville, south of Berkeley, is known as the Artichoke Capital of the World, a fitting tribute to Art’s entrepreneurial skills. In fact, the town boasts Norma’s Giant Artichoke, possibly the only restaurant in the world built in the shape of an artichoke. I must contact the Foundation about a possible investigation into restaurants built in the shape of giant foods.
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