I am alone at home in the middle of artichoke season. So I am sewing a high-waisted skirt for spring, and steaming some artichokes to have for dinner. I steam them with garlic and some onion (I actually have no idea why I do this, I suspect I read it somewhere) once I’ve snapped off the toughest outer leaves and clipped the sharp edges off what’s left. Once it’s steamed I do very little but dip the leaves in some melted butter spiked with lemon juice, and eat alongside a large tumbler of water.
My friend Tombi has a very deep love for the artichoke, and is the one who taught me just how sweet water tastes when a gulp follows the taste of artichoke. One year, for her birthday, a group of our friends descended upon the home of Hanli, at the end of winter when the rest of the country was warming up. The Free State, where Hanli lives, had missed the memo and was still bitterly cold when we arrived with a boot full of spring produce procured in the city. But there was a wood stove just off of the kitchen, and we had enough wine to hole up for weeks. The first night we had a very memorable dish of chicken cooked with a wooded Chardonay, and a French dark chocolate and chestnut tart that was utterly disappointing – the beginning of my distrust in creme de marron, a distrust which has since deepened into rendering it an ingredient non-grata. But the first course was the most striking, a large bowl of freshly steamed artichokes, lemony butter for dipping, Tombi making sure that each person had a glass of water to drink while eating.
We slept very little that night, and listened to a lot of Johannes Kerkorrel en die Gereformeerde Blues Band. We all went to bed smelling like artichokes.