There is something very tempting about them…..

Let us consider the artichoke. There is something very tempting about them which conflicts with the something about them that is very annoying. They have such a decorative value that eating them is akin to pulling the petals off a daisy, in the “she loves me, she loves me not”vein,  with the same nutritional value. The pleasure of seeing them in their glorious piles of subtle colour and texture and choosing your particular favourite from amongst the bevy of beauties on display is going to be the apotheosis of the artichoke experience.This same burlesque quality is apparent in Mediterranean small town fish mongers and butchers, as I remember them some dozen years ago, which provoke in me a similar emotion. I have seen a butcher’s display that included a heron ( or maybe it was a stork but it certainly wasn’t a turkey) hanging alongside a bizarre array of poultryish creatures and other avian specimens that it didn’t look remotely out of place. Fishmongers offer creatures that are no more than a set of black spikes with a spiteful pair of eyes which are positive beauties in comparison with the other submarine nightmares on offer that compete for a purchaser, invariably successfully. with shiny, silver sea bream and stiff, bright eyed sardines. Please don’t misunderstand me, this desire to not to waste and to find new tastes is a good thing, but it can be soul destroying to be party to this goodness to which anyone who has spent a long afternoon peeling scorzonera will attest. Scorzonera and Jerusalem artichokes taste great but are too biblical for their own good in that one needs the patience of Job and, usefully, the life span of Methuselah to arrive at the moment of pleasure after the agony of preparation. Such tasks, if regularly undertaken, need to be a central part of what one does in life, which is how most of these foods ended up as foods.

Those who prepared them were totally concerned with finding nourishment and were not put off their quest  by the bizarre costumes nature’s Diaghilev had chosen for them. What sort of inquisitiveness led anyone to believe that the artichoke might offer sustenance because, let’ s be honest, it doesn’t. What the artichoke offers is grist for the still life mill which is more than can be said for scorzonera or Jerusalem artichokes.The early demise of creative cooks on the look out for handsome vegetables must have soared in the dark ages, just think of those too good to be true red and white spotted mushrooms, and maybe this culinary inquisitiveness accounts for the amount of people deemed necessary to run a restaurant kitchen when such a rate of attrition prevailed. Having time and finding delight in all things edible, both of which qualities I now possess, are the true reason for spending time in the pointless preparation of wonderful looking ingredients that are totally unnecessary to our well being. I am not a hunter gatherer, but I’m willing to gather from the experienced hunter. I never tire of looking at, tasting, preparing and cooking even the strangest ingredients because I can see that the hunter gatherer is alive and well. The Borgia in me demands a food taster.

About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
This entry was posted in artichokes, Cooking, Digital photography, Fish, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Jerusalem artichoke, Markets, Mediterranean food, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Scorzonera, seafood, Still life. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to There is something very tempting about them…..

  1. chotenmien says:

    Busy lives but daily relaxation moments are essential. Welcome to visit to relax comfortably!!! Have a nice weekends!

  2. Hi Roger, just found your blog and website. It seems a holiday I need to take. I actually have the end of August off this year, but I’m going cycling to Burgundy. I’ll pencil you in for next year. As I’m happy with my cooking but my photography skills good do with a few pointers. Binning the iPhone would help I guess.


  3. I actually enjoy the fiddly nature of eating an artichoke…it forces my boarding school-raised husband to SLOW DOWN and enjoy lunch.
    They are they vegetal equivalent of lobster, though…how desperate does one have to be, to be the first to attempt to eat one?

  4. I see you’re painting again. Beautiful!

  5. Are these photos or paintings?? Either way.. stunning! I’d love to have one of these up on my wall ..

  6. Firstly, wonderful photos. Still Life; these needs to be framed. Secondly, it is much more appealing to order deep fried baby artichokes hearts -Da Silvano in NY does them well – and enjoy! Did I say mention how beautiful these photos are?

  7. Michelle says:

    Gorgeous grisaille!

  8. I’ve been more open to using lemon in my cooking recently, so seeing the lemon half in your dish is appealing to me.

    • It’s there for a purpose. When you cut an artichoke it is important to rub the cut surface with lemon juice to stop the artichoke from turning black. The cut artichokes are then kept in acidulated water untll you’re ready to cook them.

  9. ChgoJohn says:

    Just yesterday, i came upon a market that had a large display of artichokes, both large and small. It’s been ages ince I last saw “baby” artichokes and I bought the smallest of the small, filling a bag in the process. Since then, when I pass them in the kitchen, I smile about as broadly as a miner as he passes the secret hiding place where he’s hidden the week’s gold. Tomorrow is going to be a good day!
    Your photography is always beautiful, Roger, but today’s is truly special.

  10. a. m. f. says:

    Oh, the artichoke bunches are a delight to behold in your pictures, but to fiddle with…bah! I do have artichoke on my salad almost every night, albeit, an artichoke tapenade, made I would love to have that lovely one you’ve got halved ~

  11. There’s something Tim Burtonish about that first shot too. I love ’em all and artichokes really are the best.

  12. Roger, the photos are beautiful and illustrate your point perfectly. With a family and half a job, choosing a food for its very appearance seems a distant consideration: i’ve just served a very gooey lasagne, salad and garlic bread which would have scored zero in a beauty contest…but I do love the idea of beautiful food, and of having the time to indulge in the ritual for its preparation. One day when the children are grown up…the fish monger’s sounds a revelation.

  13. spree says:

    Stunning stunning images Roger! Absolutely gorgeous! I’m simply bowled over – beautiful foods (of which artichokes are one) do that to me, and beautiful images of food , well, they just leave me gaping wide-mouthed. Timelessly beautiful, and they must have been luxurious to work with!

  14. Gorgeous painterly images!

  15. ceciliag says:

    I prefer my artichokes in a vase or in the garden, they drive me bonkers with all that tearing and dipping and sucking, (actually on rereading, that sentence is a little ambiguous, please excuse me) but i am talking about FOOD! anyway where was I?.. hmm.. lost apparently.. c

  16. Wow, what gorgeous photos! I’ve always found artichokes to be pretty. Your images prove my point!

  17. meredith says:

    Epic writing. Your wry sense of humor adds flavor to the disappointment of said artichokes…. how ironic.

    I’m off to the market, tomorrow.

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