May 16, 2022
Stalking the Wild Cardoon
May 16th, 2022
Good Morning Folks,
In 1975, after two years of teaching special education in Rochester NY, I moved my small family to the lovely town of Canandaigua, the seat for Ontario County. It is at the head of one of the most beautiful of the Finger Lakes. I bought an old, dilapidated house a few miles down the Westlake Road and got very involved in fixing it up. One day my mom called and asked if she could bring a couple of her aunts down to see the house. These were my grandmother’s sisters but they were very lively group of ladies and always had interesting things to say. I was a bit hesitant because I was really trying to meld into the American community in Canandaigua and leave behind my Italian-American heritage. In the language of the streets of The "old neighborhood", I wanted to become a white guy. I have always had an issue of trying to blend in. Unfortunately I often stuck out like a sore thumb with my brown skin and my dark eyes and hard to pronounce last name. Even as a high school student I never really felt quite like everybody else. Fast forward to that day on Canandaigua Lake when my mom arrived with my Aunt Betty and my Aunt Josephine and probably a few other of her cummari. As soon as they pulled in the driveway, they start yelling giggles of excitement. However, it wasn’t about my old house that I was restoring on the lake. My Aunt Josephine screamed to my mom, "Clara look, look at the cardoons! They’re all over the place!" They pulled out their knives and their bags and they started to pick them from the side of the road. As my neighbors looked on, my face got redder and redder and my aunts bags got fuller and fuller. They really had no interest in the house but they were so excited to be able to load up on the wild burdock.
Now I must tell you that cardoons are a delicacy from my youth. My grandmother always cooked them for me. They are the stems of the burdock plant and they grow wild in the spring time along the side of the road.They are in the family of artichokes and have a taste that is quite similar. Well, I was all by myself on Sunday down here in Penn Yan. I tuned up my little Optimus scooter and tootled around town. As I rolled up on the high hill above the elementary school, lo and behold, under a stand of oak trees, there was a large patch of cardoons. As my years advance I feel more and more about the embracing of my past, accepting who I am and enjoying the search for my roots. I think it’s what we do when we start to approach 75 years old. Of course I looked around and make sure no one was watching me and I grabbed as many of them as I could and put them on my scooter. The accompanying pictures pretty much tell the story of what I spent the rest of the day doing.
Served with a little bit of lemon and hot pepper oil that we purchased from a roadside stand in Marsala. Baby arugula as a garnish.