Friday, June 22, 2012

Marveling at rituals... and the artichoke

Don’t you just love food rituals? Enyclopedia Britannica describes a ritual as “a specific, observable mode of behavior exhibited by all known societies, […] a way of defining or describing humans.” I think they exist in every culture, and in fact, it’s one of the most fun things to discover when traveling to a new country: not only its food, but its food rituals. Omakase in Japan. The lovo feast in Fiji. The carving of the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner.

I definitely grew up with a myriad of small food rituals in France. The meal, the order of the courses, the way we eat radish or cheese... All little rituals – not Thanksgiving scope, just small ways to celebrate the sacred: a pleasant meal.

I have found as an expat that reconnecting with and sharing these little food rituals I grew up with, here in my American life, has been a wonderful way to integrate both my French and American culture. And for people raising children in a multicultural environment, sharing those rituals with our children is one of the many small ways cultural heritage can be passed on.

As fate would have it, young children love rituals. We all know about the bedtime ritual, the nap ritual, the bath ritual. Just a way to make these moments special, reassuring and expected, so they are more agreeable to everyone involved. They are the moments children can count on in this big chaotic world. But more than that, children seem to really enjoy each and every part of the rituals. If you skip a step, like saying goodnight to Bunny, they’ll call you on it.

So I figured, using food rituals, whether they are from my childhood in France, shared by a friend from another culture, or from right here, is yet another great way to get Pablo engaged, interested and open-minded about food.

So what food ritual did I recently introduce Pablo to? I guess the post title and pictures kind of gave it away... The artichoke. 

Even though artichoke bottoms (different from the artichoke hearts) are very good for baby purees at a young age, I must admit this is one vegetable I have been avoiding… It’s so much work! You have to boil it, peel all the leaves, then take out the “furry” part, to be then left with the small bottom, that saucer looking part. People compare the complexity of human character to peeling an onion, but I for one think we should switch that analogy to artichokes!

Only as an adult can you recognize all the trouble your parents went to in order to please you. As a kid, I only remember artichokes were fun because of the fork-under-the-plate ritual… The French commonly eat artichokes by dipping the leaves into vinaigrette. To facilitate this, you put your fork underneath the plate so the plate is tilted. The vinaigrette pools in the lower part, and the leaves to be eaten stay on the top part, without soaking in the dressing. Of course you pick up the leaves with your fingers, dip them in the vinaigrette, and rake the “meat” with your front teeth. And as one of those ingrained back-to-childhood links, as soon as I look at an artichoke, I picture that plate sitting on the fork.

Introducing Pablo to the artichoke and its ritual was a lot of fun. He certainly took to it, biting the leaves was perfect since he only has his front teeth. The bottom of the artichoke, diced, makes an excellent finger food. Or can be otherwise made into a puree.

In the process of documenting this photographically, I realized just how beautiful and intricate an artichoke is! Every time you peel one part, another color, or texture appears. How does nature come up with this stuff?

Artichoke with vinaigrette

Age: Artichoke puree can be given at 6 months; as a finger food, around 8 months.

Health benefits: High in antioxidants and fiber, good for the liver and digestion, contains potassium, vitamin C and folic acid.


2 artichokes
Olive oil
Juice of a lemon


Cut off the foot of the artichoke, and put it in boiling water, covered, for about 30 minutes. Let it cool.

Peel off the leaves to be eaten dipped in vinaigrette.

Take out the furry part, and you are left with the bottom, to be diced or pureed.

Baby vinaigrette: Simply mix 2 tbsp of olive oil with the juice of half a lemon, add a bit of salt and pepper (optional).

Option 1: Cut it up to serve to baby as finger food (with or without vinaigrette)

Option 2: Make a puree. Steam ½ potato, mix it together with 2 artichoke bottoms. Should make about 2x 2 oz portions.


Other puree possibilities:

Artichoke-green beans puree (6 months and up): Steam a handful of green beans for about 10 minutes. Mix with one cooked artichoke bottom, and some milk to desired consistency.

Artichoke, peas & tomato puree (12 months and up): Steam ½ cup of frozen peas for about 15 minutes. Put 1 medium tomato in boiling water for 4 minutes. Peel the tomato. Mix together the steamed peas, tomato and artichoke bottom, add some milk to desired consistency.

Herb pairing for purees: Italian parsley, basil.

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  1. Healthy and delicious. Perfect for babies.

  2. I have a five and a half month baby girl and I want to make sure she grows to be a healthy and eager eater. I have been reading Karen Lebillon blog and books and through her blog I stumble upon yours. I a very glad I found you. Thank you very much for taking the time to share all this wealth of incredibly useful and detailed information with other parents

  3. thanks for sharing this. I have been searching for any article that tells me its safe to give my 7 mths twins artichokes and I didnt find any except yours.

  4. "Great post, thank you for the useful information. Keep up the good work! FYI, check this out: Ritual Vitamins Review for Women"


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