Etiquette Lessons

2010 May 11

When I was about 10 years old my parents enrolled me in Etiquette Lessons.  Every Saturday for about six weeks I had to change out of my soccer uniform and join the other little girls in their pretty pink dresses and boys in clip-on ties whose parents made the same investment in their future.   Our little legs dangled from the big chairs in front of fully set fancy tables with fine silver and china. We learned which fork and spoon to use and when, which bread plate belonged to us, and how to enjoy soup without slurping.  We were educated on the art of making polite conversation and taught the correct way to make formal introductions.

But what I remember best about these Saturday lessons, besides the buttery country club crackers used for bribery, was learning to eat an artichoke.  Even my parents who signed me up for the course, likely because I thought mashed potatoes were a finger food, found it funny that so much time was spent on such a specific topic and technique. Yes, it can be tricky and not necessarily intuitive, as the majority of the artichoke is inedible, but how often are we offered whole artichokes anyway?

Nearly twenty years later I have yet to have the opportunity to put my artichoke etiquette to use.  Clearly I am running with the wrong crowd.

A seasonal artichoke sale at Whole Foods inspired me to bush the dust off of my artichoke eating technique.  It turns out it’s like riding a bike.

Steamed Artichokes


  • 2 Artichokes (or as many as will fit in your steamer basket)
  • Lemon
  • Butter, seasoned oil, or dip of your choice


Cut the stem flush with the artichoke body so the artichokes can sit upright. Snap off and discard any battered outer leaves. With a serrated knife, cut the top third from each artichoke and discard. Using scissors, trim the prickly leaf-tops off and throw them away.  Cut the top quarter off the artichoke with a serrated knife.  Rub the cut surfaces with a lemon half.  Your artichokes should look like this before they take a trip to the steamer basket.

Arrange the artichokes in a steamer basket set over at least 3 cups of simmering water and steam, covered, until the leaves can be easily removed, about 40 minutes to 1 hour. About halfway through cooking time check the water level and add more, if necessary.  Serve the artichokes warm or at room temperature.

Artichokes are typically served with melted butter or seasoned olive oil for dipping, but here is a recipe for a delicious looking saffron dip for you overachievers.  They are also great plain.

Click here for instructions about how to eat one and what to do when you get to the hairy choke.   (Hint: the discarded leaves should look like this)

Invite your most elegant friends over and enjoy this delicacy in prehistoric prickly packaging.

Next I will master the art of recreating those warm buttery country club crackers.

2 Responses
  1. May 12, 2010

    Keep up the good work, I like your writing.

  2. May 13, 2010

    I love it. My parents are both English and I was raised with proper etiquette always in mind. Actually, I think a lot of kids need it these days – at least the ones I meet.

    Thanks for the artichoke education. I’ve only had the leaves and dip a couple of times but they are good.

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