Courtesy of http://www.guardian.co.uk/
The Esoteric Artichoke
A diner who needed medical attention after consuming an entire globe artichoke is suing the restaurant that served it. How much guidance do we want or need from waiters?
Do you know what to do with one of these?
The latest tale of perilous dining comes not from dicing with unidentified wild mushrooms or fugu, but from a grilled vegetable.
A doctor in Miami is suing a restaurant for failing in its "duty to explain the proper method of consuming an artichoke". Arturo Carvajal was admitted to hospital with "severe abdominal pain and discomfort" after eating one in its entirety - leaves, choke and all - where it was discovered that he had artichoke leaves lodged in his small intestine. Carvajal said he'd never seen or heard of the dish and complains that his waiter did not tell him that the outside portion of the leaf is indigestible.
Presumably Carvajal was inspired to act by the success of Stella Liebeck, now known as "the poster child of excessive lawsuits". The then 79-year-old from Albuquerque successfully sued McDonald's after tipping a cup of coffee into her lap, causing herself third degree burns and a stretch in the infirmary back in 1992.
These stories raise difficult questions for the service industry. People, more than ever, consider restaurants a destination for a night out, no longer a stop on the way somewhere else, and chefs have become celebrities. The perceived glamour of, as Marina O'Loughlin puts it so well, fayn dayning, means every embryonic Gordon feels the need to season their food with hyperbole and periphrasis. It sometimes seems like we're getting into a situation where restaurant staff feel the need to talk us through every mouthful.
Knowing where the boundary between helpfulness and over-familiarity lies can be tricky indeed. There are times when high end restaurants seem to have a Mr Shake Hands Man game going on with their customers, as if the staff are competing over who can describe a bowl of soup in the most circuitous manner. It can be irritating. Following an incident where she was tutored in the petits fours at a restaurant – not just the contents of the sweets, but the order in which to eat them, too - Rebecca Seal points out, "When I'm at a restaurant I want to be able to talk to my dining companion, not have the food picked apart for me."
The practice seems to be spreading to cafes. Yesterday I visited a cafe where the nice man who brought our drinks insisted that we pour it and let it sit for "30 seconds to a minute" before drinking. We would then, he said, be able to taste strawberries and all sorts of other delights. It was a step too far.
Certainly there are some dishes that can cause embarrassment for the uninitiated diner. Being unaware of the pulling, dipping, biting technique that is required to eat an artichoke can clearly pose problems. Attacking a whole bird – a poussin, say – can be traumatic for the timid eater, with a real possibility of the thing landing in someone's lap. Sometimes help is welcome.
It's altogether more nerve racking when your food arrives with satellites of velouté, foaming teacups, various surgical instruments and an iPod. Surely then the waiter can be expected to offer some guidance? Direction at the Fat Duck is pretty essential, says photographer Steven Joyce. "Most of it doesn't look like food you'd recognise, so you need help."
For Heston's punters the unfamiliarity arises because even the palate cleansers come with clouds of lime-scented smoke. For Arturo Carvajal it was an artichoke. The need for elucidation comes down to the individual diner. A representative of the restaurant chain Carvajal's suing said that while he felt bad Carvajal went to hospital, "It's just kind of a silly notion ... What's next? Are we going to have to post warnings on our menu they shouldn't eat the bones in our barbecue ribs?"
LWDLIK- I can not believe someone actually ate the whole artichoke...Wouldn't you after the first inedible leaf just give up or enquire how to eat it? LOL..