Artichokes are one of the first seasonal foods I remember eating. Living in northern California, just a breath away from where artichokes filled the inland fields, made them abundantly available. Not the ultra-expensive luxury they are where I reside now, where ice-laden bins burst with gargantuan, spiny globes that cost as much as an appetizer in a good restaurant. But when I was in elementary school, and my family was living pretty frugally since my dad had gone back to college, we just ate local and seasonal. Because it was cheap, not trendy. And artichokes were never a luxury, just something to look forward to once the holidays were over. The labor intensity of eating a steamed 'choke never crossed my mind--they just were what they were. Whoever thought about eating what basically are thistles must have really been hungry. My mom never clipped the sharp "prickers" as my sister called them. Getting a few stabs was just part of the fun, a rocky stepping stone on the road to the heart of the matter. Dipping the ends of each leaf was also part of the fun--I guess the same kid-appeal of any finger food. Melted butter was always an option, but the number one choice at my house was a homemade dressing of Miracle Whip (never mayo) and ketchup. Pale coral in color, thick, rich & slightly sweet. In later years, once I was long gone from artichoke country, the food I craved when I was expecting my first child was an artichoke--steamed in a bit of wine and lemon juice. Consumed, leaf by leaf, with nothing at all, just the slightly tart flavor as my teeth pulled the ends off each one. And anticipating the prize at the center of it all--a tender heart, not to be shared. Though I was afraid my husband might die of heart failure before the baby was born since he ate nearly a stick of butter with each of his own artichokes.