Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Of Artichokes, Caravaggio and Cohen

I am not a vegetable fan. As a matter of fact the number of vegetables I eat is shorter then 10 items. They are either too soft, or too thick, or too tasteless or too grassy. Artichoke however stands out in my mind as one of the most elegant and delicious things that mother earth has given the mankind. Its as if it's firmness, consistency, juiciness, flavor and texture has been optimized both independently and jointly. My favorite way of eating it is the Turkish "Zeytinyagli Enginar" which can be translated dully as "Artichoke with Olive Oil":



The quality and the taste of olive oil is a very important factor. So for an artichoke lover cooking it with another type of oil would be a serious insult. And some artichoke lovers can take it to extreme ends.

Caravaggio, or Michalengelo Merissi da Carravagio, who is considered to be by some the father of modern painting, -and also my favorite painter, for rescuing the world of painting from the disturbing and artificial angelic depiction of beauty common in Renaissance- was a keen artichoke lover. During his time in Rome, he was well known by the police for his violent behavior. Once he ordered artichoke, and the restaurant owner committed the ultimate crime of serving him artichoke cooked in butter, rather than olive oil. Caravaggio punished him with numerous sword wounds...
Caravaggio was a revolutionary. He was the first to dare picture Biblical events in contemporary settings. His painting above, The Calling of St. Matthew is my favorite. It captures the story of Jesus recruiting Matthew, a tax -or debt- collector, from the tax house so lively. It is also very secular in a sense, Matthew, chosen by son of God -as the Christians believe- carries a very humane and realistic expression of surprise -almost "You're Talkin' To Me?" like-, but not divine salvation. Some historians speculate he was persecuted by the church -or even killed- for taking "God" out of art, and therefore spreading the idea that people need other people, not church or God to survive.

You might ask where did the idea of such an entry come to my mind. Believe or not, I was buying artichokes when Leonard Cohen's "Is This What You Wanted" played on my mp3 player.

The second line of the song goes like:

You were Jesus Christ my Lord,
I was the money lender.


which is an obvious reference to the story painted by this great painter who painted it 407 years ago and still able to influence an engineer with whom he shares the love for artichokes. C'mon admit it, intertextuality is a great thing...

5 comments:

thuan said...

man, speak no heresy of artichoke in butter. i love artichoke in salted european butter!! (available at central market)

zeynep said...

Bak su ise... Ben de zebzenin her turlusu seven bir insan olarak enginari bir turlu sevemiyorum.. Her sene deniyorum, mmh malesef hala sevmiyorum, diyorum.

Ahmet C. Toker said...

You say that only because you never tasted artichoke in olive oil...

hunhar said...

Ahmetcim sana katiliyorum, zeytinyagsiz enginar, katledilmis enginardir bana gore. Zeytinyagli enginarda en onemlisi ama, eksi miktaridir. Hassas dengeler sozkonusu orada.

Ahmet C. Toker said...

agzinin tadini bildigin belli oluyor hunhar hanim. ben bu eksiligi bir adim daha oteye gotureyim. o eksilik ne tuzla ne limonla ne de baska birseyle taklit edilebilecek zeytinyaginin kendi eksisi olmalidir.

dengelere gelince ben az da olsa seker de koyuyorum, dengeyi bulmak zor oluyor, ama buldum mu da tadindan yenmiyor...