If you ever want to pass some time on a long flight, just turn to a fellow passenger and announce "the correct way" to cook an artichoke. A disagreement will ensue because there are about as many ways to cook an artichoke as there are connecting flights through O'Hare.

If you ever want to pass some time on a long flight, just turn to a fellow passenger and announce "the correct way" to cook an artichoke. A disagreement will ensue because there are about as many ways to cook an artichoke as there are connecting flights through O'Hare.

Most newcomers to the world of artichoke cuisine can't believe we go to so much effort for such little payoff. After all, at least 85 percent of an artichoke is inedible — you're only after that tender morsel at the tip of each leaf, and oh yeah, that succulent heart.

Anyway, to eat an artichoke, my approach is simply to pull leaves off the main globe one at a time, beginning with the smallest ones around the stem, and work toward the center. When you pull off a leaf, you'll notice a plump, little portion of artichoke meat at its base.

If this is your genuine first artichoke, then I highly recommend tasting it au naturel: no mayonnaise, butter or other type of sauce; just you and a pure artichoke experience. To do this, scrape off that plump tip by gently biting down on the leaf slightly ahead of the edible portion and scraping it through your front teeth. The fibrous leaf comes out; the tender pulp stays behind.

For the remaining leaves, you certainly have the option of continuing to eat them in their unsauced state (why pick up any bad habits if you don't have to?). Or you can do what most artichoke lovers do, which is justify the consumption of vast amounts of mayonnaise and butter by dipping the pulpy tip of your artichoke leaves into one of those offerings before eating.

By the way, you'll want to experiment with the leaf orientation in your mouth. That is, try some leaves with the pulpy portion facing up, some with the pulpy portion facing down. One way will feel more enjoyable than the other, and that's how you'll inevitably continue to eat them for the rest of your life.

Once you reach the fuzzy center, you're ready to enjoy the ultimate reward: the heart. Scrape the "choke" from the meaty bottom by using a spoon or knife. The big, thick disc of artichoke you're left with is the heart. Using fingers or fork, dip portions of it into your sauce (unless you're being pure) and enjoy!

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit" and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at janrd@proaxis.com or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.