*NOTE: PAGES 325-333 HAVE BEEN REVISED CONSIDERABLY; reach page 375 and scroll down for the final version*

Speaking of hearts:

The artichoke

In Twain’s day artichokes were conquering America, though hardly as a new item—the artichoke has been cultivated since before ancient Rome.

Artichoke wallpaper designed by John Henry Dearle for William Morris and Co., circa 1897

The health benefits of eating artichokes are many, including its antioxidants which regenerate liver tissue, and other elements which aid digestion, reduce blood cholesterol and diminish the risk of all kinds of trouble  like arteriosclerosis and heart attacks, and even aphrodisiac virtues, or so says Catherine of Medici, who consumed great quantities of them, at a time when it was said women should not eat this vegetable… So let’s make sure it is served in abundance onboard the Lorelei!

There is also a curious property of the artichoke: it contains cynarine, which affects your taste buds in a unique way—anything you drink after eating artichoke will taste sweet, even water.

(That reminds me of an earlier botanical entry, about the persimmon… Have you ever eaten one before it had ripened? But then, let it ripen fully, fully—and how sweet it becomes… If I were to choose some plants to worship, the Persimmon would have to be one. The artichoke would be next.)

But what does this have to do with our story?

Well, Cynarine, Cynarine, where have I heard that before? Ever seen this stylized artichoke?

That’s a “Cynara Finial”
“A gate pier finial in the form of an artichoke, after an exceptional English 19th-century original. In an Aegean myth Cynara, a young mortal woman, was seduced by Zeus but, after numerous trysts, chose to return to her mortal parents. Angered, Zeus transformed her into the plant we know today as the artichoke.”

Homesick Cynara returned to the world of humans. And then an angry jealous god, as always, making trouble—but our culinary pleasure, too.