Several months ago, I was invited to participate in a
blogging challenge of blogging my way through the alphabet, which I successfully
completed in Inspiritual Reflections. The owner challenged some of us to
complete the alphabet, if we had not, or do it again, which I have chosen to
do. So this time I am going to blog my way through the alphabet in The Zenful Kitchen,
spiritually reflecting on foods, herbs, spices, and other things culinary.
I decided to start this challenge with an ingredient, which has always intrigued me, the artichoke. Artichokes are interesting because from an alchemical perspective, they encourage personal growth and protect a person from negative elemental energies. Women were at one time warned not to eat them, as it was believed they were sexually stimulating.
What I found interesting is that they come from the same family of flowers that I have long been attracted to, marigolds, daisies, and sunflowers. Although most people I know do not eat them often, they are amazingly healthy for you. They are. amongst other things, low in calories and have a high water and fiber content, making them a great choice for people who are trying to lose weight, prevent or manage heart disease type 2 diabetes, reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, lower blood pressure, improve mood, slow memory decline, cleanse the liver and boost bone health.
Beyond all these health benefits lays layers of meaning about life and what it has to offer. When you look at the artichoke, what you see is life. At the core is a soft and tender heart. However, it is surrounded by walls and walls, which surround and protect this treasured delicacy. The leaves of the artichoke can be prickly on the outside. Isn’t that how we construct our lives? We have these soft tender hearts in the middle, in the core of who we are. Yet to protect the heart are layers of walls, some of which have been put there to protect the heart and others which we have constructed in response to painful and wounding events in our life.
So often, when one has been wounded, it is only through the process of carefully opening one layer of walls at a time through which we allow others to connect with our heart. The layers must be peeled back one at a time and carefully.
While the majority and tenderest of the meat in the artichoke is in the heart, there is something to be gained from each petal. My favorite memory of artichokes is when a family friend would make them for us. She would cut off the top third of the choke and then roll the choke slightly to begin to open up the leaves. Sometimes we all need a little encouragement to open up.
Then she would stuff each leave with a mixture of breadcrumbs, oils, herbs, spices, and cheeses. She would carefully stuff each leaf spiraling inward toward the tender heart, baking it to perfection. When it was done, it looked like a work of art. It would remind me of a hologram, reminding me that each part is a reflection of and connected to the whole. Each leaf is part of the whole experience. As I would eat each leaf, carefully making my way to the heart, I could begin to make those connections.
As I remember the experience, I remember how every flavor in each leaf seemed to be the same, but different. Each somehow related to the next leaf and the leaf before it. Isn’t that how our lives are, each moment in time is connected somewhat to the totality.
Perhaps that is why Dr. Jean Houston once said, “Life imitates cuisine. The art of cooking is a metaphor for composing a life.” May we continue to peel back each layer surrounding our heart carefully, savoring each morsel and gift it has to offer.