How I Used an Artichoke to Teach My Children About Mindful Eating

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I have a rule in my home, at least for the people who live there: You must sit down to eat. Whether it’s a full meal or just a box of raisins, take a seat, and don’t forget to chew. Enforcing this rule takes constant effort. Some foods — the ones that demand attention, like artichokes — make it easy. They’ll thank me when they’re older, right?

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I remember clearly my first meeting with an artichoke, when I was eight years old. In early spring, my mother and I took an overnight trip to the lowcountry near Charleston, South Carolina to visit my godmother, one of my mother’s best friends from college. We arrived in the late afternoon, and I was left to my own devices. I don’t remember whether I explored the house, or read a book, both likely possibilities.

Eventually, I made my way into the kitchen, where my mother and her friend were seated at a table in front of a large picture window overlooking a lush backyard, sipping wine (which seemed impossibly sophisticated) and eating something I had never seen before. They dipped each spiny green leaf into a bowl of warm butter, removing the meat by pulling each leaf between their teeth, a constant stream of conversation between each bite, about old friends, new hairdos, good books, and several things I didn’t understand. They dabbed their fingers on pressed linen napkins when necessary. They let me try the artichoke, though not the chardonnay, and I was in love. Artichokes seemed like the most glamorous snack in the world.

As it happens, my children love them, too, though they never experienced the thrill I did, having enjoyed them from a much younger age. As a vehicle for melted butter, they can’t be beat. There are times when we add anchovy, garlic and olive oil to make a bagna cauda, but butter will always do. 

And you cannot meander around the kitchen with an artichoke. You need somewhere to put the discarded leaves, a bowl for melted butter, and a knife and fork for the denouement, the delicious heart of the flowery vegetable. Artichokes can only be eaten mindfully. There really is no other way.

Do you have clear memories of when you first enjoyed a favorite food? What foods do you enjoy that require your full attention? How are you teaching your children to eat mindfully, or how are you teaching yourself?

(Images: Anne Postic)