Melt the Butter: Castroville Artichoke Festival

Do you go oil, butter, or mayo? Celebrate the tastiest dippable around.

TALK-WORTHY FOOD: Gourmands are sometimes satirized for discussing future meals as they sit down to a nice dinner, but discussing food over food isn't always unusual. Take the foodstuffs we talk about while we're eating them. Toast typically isn't discussed, with passion and heat, while we consume it; same likely goes for eggs, which are as hearty as can be, but perhaps so ubiquitous that we don't think to sing their yolky praises as we consume them. But a flaming Baked Alaska? Yeah, we're talking about it while we eat it. A four-tiered tower of crab claws? Probably discussing that in real time, too. And the artichoke? Flat-out yes. We have a theory that it is nearly impossible to eat an artichoke while not discussing artichokes. Can you and a friend share a thorny bit of heaven and not ponder the artichoke's greatness while you teeth-drag over the leaf ends? You cannot. That's one of the many wonders of that most thistle-y of all cravings, a treat that gets its due each late spring.

CASTROVILLE ARTICHOKE FESTIVAL: The delicious dippable will once again leaf-it-up at the Monterey County Fair and Events Center. Dates? Saturday, May 31 and Sunday, June 1. Happenings? Wine demos, cooking demos, a classic car show. Field tours? You betcha -- buses await those who want to know how the bulbous delights grow. Artichoke edibles? So very many at the fest. But our second question is this: Do you prefer to enjoy your chokie the old-fashioned way, or breaded, fried, split, and smothered in sauces? That may be the final topic that artichokeans need to meet on and call a truce. For while everybody likes to discuss the artichoke while eating an artichoke, we still possess our own preferences with how we take the succulent plant. Can't we savor it in all the ways? Someone please open up an all-artichoke restaurant chain at once and prove there is no wrong way to eat an artichoke.

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