“Have a heart,” he begged. “I need a break from all of this baking, the cakes and breads and brownies and muffins.”
I live in a strange household. I am one of the food obsessed. One who needs no time or reason to eat, hunger has absolutely no say in the matter, it doesn’t even count in the game, unless of course I am really hungry, then I just need more and sooner. In my book, eating is all about joy and pleasure, feeding the senses, soothing the soul. It can ease pain, calm stress. It is celebrating something or nothing, rewarding me (or someone else) for something big or small. Eating is love or anger, sadness or laughter, boredom or frenzy.
But the men in my life have an entirely different philosophy : one eats when one is hungry or needs sustenance. “I just made cookies” is often met with “Thanks, but I’m not hungry.” “What kind of cake should I bake today?” and I am thrown “Stop shoving food down our throats!” “I found a fabulous new recipe?” “Oh, geez, mom, why do you always have to try out new stuff? Just stick to what you know I like!”
It could break a mother’s heart!
And now this : “After all the cooking and baking and eating – and don’t think that I don’t love it! But I need to lose a few pounds. It’s time to go on a diet.”
Is the way to a man’s heart truly through his stomach or is it something altogether less visceral and more intellectual? Not “I eat because I am” but rather “I eat because – and when - I need to?”
So after holiday cooking and birthday dinner out, a restaurant-going frenzy through the month of December and a lot of baking, it is evidently time to calm down. At least for a time. Salads and soups. Good-bye wine and bread and cheese and see you later! I’ll see what I can cook up (pun intended).
So this girl is taking his request to heart: heart of lettuce, heart of palm artichoke hearts. Heart and soul.
ARTICHOKE AND PARMESAN SALAD
This is a dish we often ate in Italy, both at restaurants and at home. It is best made with the small, young, more tender artichokes. These can simply be trimmed, sliced thin and eaten as is, choke and all.
This is also ideal served atop fresh carpaccio!
1 bouquet of artichauts poivrades (small, young artichokes) – there are normally 5 artichokes in a bouquet
Fresh block of parmesan cheese
Bouquet fresh flat parsley
Very good quality extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
With a sharp vegetable knife, a cheese slicer or, as I do, a potato/vegetable peeler, slice of very thin slices or curls of parmesan cheese off of the block. Set the aside to use as the finishing touch to your salad.
Prepare a medium-sized bowl with cold water and a good squeeze of lemon juice.
With a very sharp knife, cut off the top inch (2 cm) from the top of each artichoke. Cut off the stem close to the bottom of the blub.
Pull off the outer layers of tough leaves, leaving only the tender ones which are much lighter in color (a very pale yellow, almost white, tipped with pale violet).
As you trim each artichoke, place it in the bowl of water with lemon to keep it from turning brown.
Finely chop a couple of tablespoons of fresh, flat-leafed parsley.
Prepare the salad just when you will be ready to serve it. Slice the artichokes into very thin slices. Spread the slices out on serving platter.
Sprinkle generously with freshly-sqeezed lemon juice, about half a lemon. Drizzle a healthy drizzle of good quality olive oil all over the artichokes. Salt and grind black pepper all over, sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
Lay very thin slices of parmesan cheese over the top of the salad.
Serve immediately, either as a side dish or as a first course. I served this with a platter of Italian bresaola and speck, a good Italian cheese or two (Scamorza Affumicato and Taleggio), fresh focaccia and a bottle of Italian wine.
Okay, so it ends up, with all the side trappings, not the most dietetic meal, but it is light and balanced. And delicious. And husband loved it.