Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Artichoke Love

There is an old French saying that one who falls in love easily (and often) is a coeur d'artichaut. An artichoke heart. Now, being a great lover of this vegetable, I have often wondered what this could possibly mean. Anyone who has painstakingly trimmed, steamed and peeled apart the suckers knows that this is hardly a facile operation. Seriously. You could spend a half an hour alone just removing the hairy choke. And the prickly armor? Hardly a come on. Perhaps it is the exceptional tenderness of the fruit underneath all of this rigamorale that led to this curious expression.

Google had other thoughts.

It seems as if this charming yet confusing appellation comes from the proverb: "coeur d'artichaut, une feuille pour tout le monde". That is, "an artichoke heart, a leaf for everyone." For example, the girl who falls head-over-spiky-heels in love with every boy in the office. And on her street. And, and, and. And just when you thought she had completely given her heart away bit by increasingly tender bit, she turns over a leaf, so to speak. Ad infinitum. Perhaps you think I have painted a very pathetic picture. But I think not. I mean, artichokes may not be infinite, but what about the capacity of the human heart to love?

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell" (The Four Loves).

At least our office girl is on the right track. At least she is a somewhat vulnerable being, albeit a little misguided. I like to think that maybe all she needs is a zesty lemon vinaigrette to temper her over-eager adoration. A little wisdom with her youthful artlessness.

These and other thoughts wove in and out of my mind as I made my way home from the market on Sunday, triumphantly struggling under the burden of exactly 3 euros in fresh produce. So, what can you get for this paltry pocket change? Well, it depends on when you arrive. The early bird does not necessarily get the worm here, and procrastination seems to pay off in larger dividends. The trick is to wander down at 1:3o or even 2 in the afternoon - most of the sellers have rolled up their carpets, but a few desperate fellows hang about till the last minute, hoarsely begging people to come and help them finir la table. Translation: I've been up sine 3 this morning setting up my stand, get this stuff outta my sight, everything's a euro per case. Now that's what I call a deal. Now, what on earth am I going to do with a dozen or more artichokes?

Well, peel them. Bit by bit. Till I get to that delectable little...say it with me now...

coeur d'artichaut.

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

Ma belle Ab, would you believe that this very expression came up in my Proust class, and I was one of only two people to understand its true meaning (the other was a native speaker), and that I only knew this because of YOU? Merci, ma chère. My sparkly toes have once again left the ground, but I miss you and hope you're doing well. Someday we will meet again at Bordertown! Someday! (Or, maybe in Paris!)