One of the first meals I had in Italy was at a nearby town called Trevinano. My family and I went for lunch with our stomachs set on having pizza and were dumbfounded when we found out it was only served for dinner. It REALLY threw us for a loop. Our shock was deafening. A few gasps and then silence accompanied by blank stares to refocus. We had our hearts set on PIZZA. It’s all we could think of. I mean, we flew all the way from the states and then walked 3k from the villa just to have magical authentic pizza. Luckily we’d made friends with a chef named Iside (an amazing chef I’ll be blogging about in another post.) She saw our faces and kindly came over to recommend alternatives on the menu. Thanks to her suggestions, my lunch started with fried artichokes with fresh squeezed lemon juice on top.
Come to find out rather quickly that the artichoke is a pretty big deal in Italian cooking. I really had no idea until I was there. (Much like I feel I had no idea about oh so many things at the beginning of March.)
The Italian word for artichoke is “carciofo”. It was growing like crazy in the garden at the villa and three weeks into my trip when two of my friends arrived, I was immediately dubbed “dolce carciofo”. They couldn’t figure out why they nicknamed me that, but it stuck out to them on the plane ride over while browsing through their trusty translation book. They had given themselves sexier names such as “Ginger” and “Lioness…”, but some how came across carciofo and decided that was me! When I heard it I loved it immediately. I didn’t know why, it just sounded right to me. The next day they went to the market and gave me the most beautiful artichoke I’d ever seen. It was one of my birthday gifts. I kept it growing in water and at the end of my time at the villa gave it to the ever so kind grounds keeper and gardner, Palmiro.
I never thought I would write a blog post dedicated to an artichoke, but it’s really stuck with me. We started noticing how prevalent the artichoke is in Italian food and everyone seems to smile when they see or hear about artichokes. They make an “ooh… mmm” sound when they read it listed as a menu item. On my birthday, the two chefs that came in to cook for me, served us fried artichokes. They especially love them fried but are delicious in pasta, on pizza and of course classically by themselves.
It turns out they are best in the spring… which was perfect timing. When the internet was working again, I looked up the symbolism of the artichoke. It means “hope” and “peace”. It’s also symbolic of “getting to the heart of matters.” Everyone seemed to think this all made sense concerning me when all was said and done. One of my friends told me that because I provided her the opportunity to stay at Podere Palazzo, that her heart opened back up. She was able to finally have hope back and she thanked ME for that. Somehow I had helped her move to a better place in her life. It made me wonder even more about my Italian nickname.
I also can’t help but think of the very first time I actually had an artichoke. I wasn’t sure how to eat it… being 17 and at a dinner at my first boyfriend’s house, I had to wait and watch everyone else eat theirs in order to figure out how to reach my heart. I was a little intimidated when it came to discovering different foods, especially when I had to take it apart to eat it. They kept telling me the best part is the heart and I’d have to get through all the leaves to finally get there. There is plenty of symbology in that alone.
Since back, almost everyone I know that has seen me has said I look different in a good way. Some can’t pin-point it… others have said I have lost weight, some say I have a “tan” (which makes me giggle because the slightest bit of color for me IS a tan), some say I am glowing with a new kind of energy. And others say they are getting chills and goosebumps being around me and listening to my stories and are getting inspired by the things I am doing in my life. Wow. These are generous and high compliments and while I love compliments (who doesn’t!?) there really is something to it. I can feel it too. I do feel different. I have lost weight and I do have a tiny bit of color left from over a week ago… but it’s more than that. Something has shifted. I’m getting fit from the inside out. I’m more aware and I feel full of light. I feel beautiful. I feel heightented. I feel “in tune”. I think it’s a combination of things, but the overall blessing is that I am radiating something that is making others feel hopeful and peaceful and inspired. It makes me feel like I am really giving back in so many areas of my life. It could be that I am so thankful to be able to read ALL the signs I see because they are in English or that I am just more confidant because I know what is going on and where I’m going. But that would belittle the true nature of what’s going on. Thank God I can help others in some way… to feel as though I am having a positive effect on those I’m around (not only through my paintings) is remarkable. I feel so blessed. And so thankful. Somehow or another, I am the Carciofo.
Goo goo g’joob