Relationships Are Like Artichokes

When I was a little girl, I remember my grandmother cooking artichokes. She would lovingly chose them from the farmers market, explaining to me how to look for just the right one. “They all look the same to me,” I said from my much less experienced eye. “Oh, but they aren’t. You see, it is what’s inside that matters. Sometimes the roughest, biggest artichokes have the sweetest, most succulent of centers, and that’s what we want to get.” 

 

After we returned home, Grandma would scrub and stuff them with her delicious bread crumb filling. Then off to the oven to bake.  “Gram, if artichokes are so delicious, why are you adding stuffing to them?”
“Well,” she laughed, “remember I told you that it is the tender center that we want to get at? If we don’t make the outside leaves more tender and tasty, you won’t eat enough of them to get at the center…then you will have missed the experience of working your way to the "heart" of the artichoke. Most people toss them away before they even know what the center looks like, let alone tastes like. They are all too impatient because they're just hungry and wanting to fill their own bellies.”  “But why wouldn’t you just cut through to the center and not waste your time on the outside leaves?” I asked.  “Ah,” she said, “you are also impatient, my love. If you rush to get at their centers too soon, you will have nothing to compare it to – no anticipation for what is to come. If we always have great tasting foods instantly, what will we have to compare it too? You can never rush a wonderful sensual experience.We would have missed the experience of getting to know the food and all its potential! Besides, just when you get to the center, there are these tiny little thorns that will prick you if you aren’t careful and dig in too quick. The tender loving experience of getting to know the outside, carefully unpacking it, and then truly enjoying the inside is what makes artichokes worthwhile. Artichokes are like people.”
 
Once I became an adult and started cooking for my own family, I could still recall the wonderful aroma and taste of my grandmother's baked artichokes, but against my grandmother's teaching, I chose to forgo the handpicking and stuffing and just bought my artichoke hearts in a jar at the supermarket. Why bother to work so hard, especially when life is so busy?   Yet, just as my grandmother predicted, the centers in the jar didn’t taste anything like hers; in fact, they tasted…..tasteless! I still remembered the taste of those wonderful artichokes she cooked and how delighted we were when we finally got to those delicious delicate centers. 
Grandma had taught me, artichokes are like people. Sometimes they have rough exteriors. They take a while to work through in order to get at their center. Some can have more protective devices then others: they can be pushy, sarcastic, demanding or fearful. They can begin to let you in, at least close to their center, but then there are still all the tiny thorns that push you back, leaving you wondering how you got that close in the first place. But once you carefully pulled away the thorns and got a taste of the center, you realized all the work was well worth it.

My grandparents were married 60 years, happy, connected and still holding hands until the day they died.  Although I did not have the honor of knowing them in the years that they were pulling back their “leaves”, I had the amazing pleasure of knowing them after they had found each other's “centers”!    
 

~Wendy Pegan, Relationship Builder

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