It's funny what you miss when you move to another country. Peanut butter for one. Preferably the giant Costco-sized creamy Skippy. And before I left for Europe I was into that natural, chunky peanut butter. I wasn't even one of those kids who ate PB&J every day, but since moving to Europe I want peanut butter and peanut butter flavored snacks all the time. Go figure.
Another thing I miss is artichokes. Yes, like peanut butter you can get artichokes in London. But for whatever reason its not the same as eating them from the source. Springtime in Northern California is synonymous with one of my favorite things to eat: The Artichoke.
Nearly all artichokes consumed in the United States come from Monterey County. A coastal county, with sandy soil in a temperate climate - absolutely perfect for artichoke cultivation. Today, you can still get a giant, fresh, artichoke for only $1! This is a farm near my parents home and these artichokes are ready to be picked!
I'll eat them in almost any form, but steamed or boiled whole is my favorite. Rinse. Trim. Boil water. Add a bit of salt and lemon to the water. Takes about a half hour for a few large artichokes. Done and dusted. It can't get any simpler. (Please excuse my artichokes for oxidizing - they traveled in my suitcase to London all the way from California. I just had to bring some back with me.)
I love pulling the leaves off one by one and scraping each leaf against my teeth. Plain is fine or dipped in a bit of melted butter or lemon mayo. After layers and layers you get to the inedible choke.
Gently scrape away and then the best part: The Heart.
Like many of California's specialty crops, artichokes were introduced by the Spaniards over 200 years ago. Today, California mostly cultivates Green Globes, which hail from Italy, and larger than most varieties. Artichokes have been popular in Italy, Spain, and France since before the Renaissance and often eaten grilled, raw, marinated, steamed, braised, stuffed...
I may need to take a trip get more artichokes from another source. That's the wonder of living in London. France is a hop. Spain a skip. Italy a jump.