Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Tender heart

"We have said nothing about Chirico until we take into account his most personal views about the artichoke, the glove, the cookie, or the spool." Andre Breton.

Chirico is said to have dreamt of artichokes (great, giant artichokes!) in a piazza before painting them 1913. I heard tell of a famous artichoke pizza in New York, but I never tried it. I imagine his views about cookies are much the same as mine and yours.

The globe artichoke (which I like to eat with a fork) is also known as cynara scolymus. It is a beautiful fruit, made to be loved in folds. Here is its love letter.

Ode to the Artichoke by Pablo Neruda

The artichoke
With a tender heart
Dressed up like a warrior,
Standing at attention, it built
A small helmet
Under its scales
It remained
By its side
The crazy vegetables
Their tendrills and leaf-crowns,
Throbbing bulbs,
In the sub-soil
The carrot
With its red mustaches
Was sleeping,
The grapevine
Hung out to dry its branches
Through which the wine will rise,
The cabbage
Dedicated itself
To trying on skirts,
The oregano
To perfuming the world,
And the sweet
There in the garden,
Dressed like a warrior,
Like a proud
And one day
Side by side
In big wicker baskets
Walking through the market
To realize their dream
The artichoke army
In formation.
Never was it so military
Like on parade.
The men
In their white shirts
Among the vegetables
The Marshals
Of the artichokes
Lines in close order
Command voices,
And the bang
Of a falling box.

With her basket
She chooses
An artichoke,
She's not afraid of it.
She examines it, she observes it
Up against the light like it was an egg,
She buys it,
She mixes it up
In her handbag
With a pair of shoes
With a cabbage head and a
Of vinegar
She enters the kitchen
And submerges it in a pot.

Thus ends
In peace
This career
Of the armed vegetable
Which is called an artichoke,
Scale by scale,
We strip off
The delicacy
And eat
The peaceful mush
Of its green heart.

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