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Artichoking Up

Artichokes I'm still trying to figure out what Bon Appetit is good for, it melds with Food & Wine in my brain and I only willingly subscribed to the latter. So far it has served as memory dredger.

My attitude toward mayonnaise has softened with age. It does have a place in the kitchen and I'm able to eat it as long as I can't see it oozing out from under a slice of bread or a bun like a white lava flow. But I'd completely blocked out the source of my mayonnaise aversion until I saw the photo of an artichoke with bagna cauda in this month's Bon Appetit (written by a Portlander). Steamed artichokes!

There was a spell in the late '70s right after we'd located from the Bay Area to Portland when that my aunt who'd dropped out of high school and was working at Winchell's was staying with us. There couldn't have been too much of a rift in the family because around this same time her parents, my grandparents, lived in our yard in an RV (nomadism is very much in our genes—last year my sister and husband were living in a recreational vehicle in Springfield).

One night, this aunt was babysitting my sister and me and made steamed artichokes with mayonnaise. That seems impossibly sophisticated now (this is the same aunt who was in the ER last week due to an Atkins fudge overdose) which isn't a knock on my family’s taste, but let’s just say that frozen Salisbury steak and canned creamed corn were the types of thing my dad would make for dinner when my mom worked nights (graveyard shift, which sounded ominous). Perhaps artichokes and dip were a mainstream edible of the era that seemed fancier than it was like green goddess dressing.

Even though I couldn't have been more than four years old, I thought this was a delicious snack…until I got the barfs. I couldn't look at mayonnaise the same way again. These things stay with you. Also during preschool years, I refused to eat a bologna sandwich with mayonnaise while sitting with my mom underneath a giant curved half-circle jungle gym. I was convinced the barkdust we were sitting on had gotten into the sandwich.

Now, I'm sounding very neurotic because after throwing up at the Rose Festival Fun Center (believe me, there is nothing less fun) after church with the smell of wet barkdust and corndogs in the air, I've never liked either. In fact, on the way to the gym where I was reading this Bon Appetit, I passed by a few trees surrounded by freshly rained on mulch (they don't call it barkdust in NYC) and had carny flashbacks.

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