Sunday, 11 October 2009

Concerns Over Artichoke Mash

There. Now, I just had to show you these! Cook let me into her pantry to take a quick snap of our very own European Artichoke Mountain! Boulder planted them at around the same time as the last of the potatoes, and they grew to a most fantastic size! I always think Boulder is a slightly unfortunate name for a gardener, but it sort of suits him: he has a massive and inscrutable quality vaguely resonant with the nature of an actual boulder: Mordecai Boulder – I have not ventured into the garden with the camera, because it has been raining and I fear the results would have been a little too Wuthering Heights to present; but by and by when the weather is more clement I will take a photograph of Boulder rootling in the mould and you can see for yourself.

All the potatoes were in when Lady Bonchley found she had some artichokes to spare, and a certain amount of wheedling persuaded Boulder to dig a little extra bed between the potato patch and the path. He was annoyed with me of course, because the raised beds looked splendid up until then, but the clump of artichokes (which must be first cousins of sunflowers I should think) grew to be about eight feet tall and gave the impression of a verdant double-decker bus driving determinedly through the middle of the vegetable garden. Anyway this last week he pronounced them ready and dug them all up, so I took this photograph for you to see.

Artichokes are not without their challenges to social occasions, because of their extraordinary – and irresistible – propensity for generating wind (gastric I mean, not atmospheric conditions). Mrs Swann (our housekeeper – I do know her Christian name, because I read it on her references when she came; but I think she prefers to be known as Mrs Swann) prepared the most delectable artichoke mash with oodles of cream and parsley butter – I cannot tell you how delicious: but the after-effects were severe. Such niceties of decorum affect Lord Bonchley not in the slightest, and I assure you he was not discombobulated one whit by the intermittent clouds and gales of vegetable aroma that accompanied his progress as we walked under the beeches when luncheon was over. Lady Bonchley was naturally less indifferent to the matter, and I was piqued to observe that Ponty failed entirely to disguise his hilarity (did he even try?) at the spectacle of Lady Bonchley and Eustacia adroitly contriving a separating distance at regular intervals as they strolled in the autumn sunshine. Sunshine! Bother! I could have taken a snap of Boulder after all! Anyway, it must have caused considerable discomfiture, and I felt proud of Eustacia’s rising to the occasion and handling this embarrassment with such delicacy.

No matter – those artichokes were delicious, and we have quite a mountain still to eat. We shall persist regardless; but I shall have a little word with Mrs Swann, and ask her please to mention to Cook that they should not be served when guests are dining with us – unless they expect to be leaving directly after the conclusion of the meal.

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