Buttoned up to the top of her neck, The 16th century woman reaches for the artichoke. At the supper table, her uncle slaps her hand away. “Artichokes are not for the ladies;” he warns her. Now she is certain she will faint. Flushed in her heavy dress, she falls to the floor and rolls over to her mother, who whispers that the artichoke is an aphrodisiac, inappropriate for women. They bow their heads back into their slight pieces of stale bread.
Norma Jean flashes her big red smile and waves to the crowd on Main Street. Every eye in Castroville, California drink up her strapless blue chiffon dress, tight around her waist and short enough to reveal her shapely legs. Her blonde hair blends into the sunny sky that surrounds her daisy –covered float. The parade ends at the Kiwanis Club parking lot where newspaper reporters swarm like flies around Norma Jean, where the mayor declares her Castroville’s First Artichoke Queen. He beams with pride and crowns her head with a handmade floral crown. In 1947, the Artichoke Capital of the World feeds Marilyn Monroe sautéed artichokes sprinkled liberally with sugar.
Featured in Food Fashion, models pose wearing edible outfits. A blonde adorns a Cream Puff Wedding ensemble. Rows of airy pastry dangle from her, stacked in triangular form. She is a statue of dessert. She is her own wedding cake, ready for her groom to consume her. Another wears the German Chocolate Bubble Dress designed with perfectly molded chocolate that clings to the model’s body, billows out at her hips, suggests creamy delight underneath her chocolaty skirt. The model in the Elegant Artichoke Heart Gown is covered with pointed artichokes. She looks dangerous, like a porcupine, or protected with an armadillo’s armor, or as unreachable as a mermaid-- but the outfit exposes her soft black bra, reveals touchable tenderness. The caption says: “Artichokes don’t always look good on a dinner plate.”
-- Brenda Nicholas teaches English classes at a local community college and is an MFA candidate at UNCW in poetry. She feels lucky to be writing at the beach. Her work has appeared in Rumble: Micro Fiction Magazine, Main Channel Voices, Red River Review, Illya’s Honey, Menacing Hedge, and forthcoming in The Helix Magazine.