The Art of Eating Artichokes

12/02/2010

I love Pasta House's stuffed artichokes.  Our family sets it in the middle of the table and we all pick at the leaves, scrapping the pulpy part off with our teeth.  At the end, I cut up the artichoke heart and split it between us.  It's great.

It never really occured to me that some people might not know how to eat an artichoke. 

Until now ...

Recently, a Florida man claimed he was injured from eating the leaves of a artichoke and has sued the restaurant.  The suit will test whether a restaurant has a duty to explain to patrons how to eat unfamiliar foods.

The suit alleges that neither at the time the waiter took the Florida man's order nor at the time the food was served did the waiter ask whether the Florida man was familiar with how to eat an artichoke or explain to him that the outside portion of the leaf should not be eaten.

Now I never tried to eat the whole artichoke, leaves and all.  But if I did, I can't imagine it would taste good.  In fact, I don't even think I would be able or even want to eat it all.

Apparently, this Florida guy ate the whole thing.  As a result, he began experiencing severe abdominal pain and discomfort and ended up in the hospital where, during exploratory surgery, artichoke leaves were found lodged within his  small bowel.  Pretty disgusting.

He sued the restaurant for negligent training of its staff, alleging it had a duty to use reasonable care with respect to the serving and explanation of food items which by their appearance as served appear wholly consumable.

Like I said before, I don't know who taught me how to eat an artichoke.  It probably was my Mom or Dad.  I don't remember who taught me how to eat a banana either.  Somehow I just knew or someone told me not to eat the peel. 

If you think hard, there probably is a lot of food that should come with some type of instructions on how to eat it, just like stero instructions when we buy a new music system. 

And it might not just be the food, but how you present it.  If you serve ice cream in a bowl, do you need to tell the patron not to eat the bowl? 

To me, it seems like this Florida guy might be pushing the legal envelope a bit too far by arguing that the restaurant was negligent in failing to train its servers to teach customers on the proper method of consuming an artichoke. 

Florida, like other states, uses a “reasonable expectation” test in unfit food cases. A preparer of food has the duty of ordinary care to eliminate or remove in the preparation of the food he serves such harmful substances as the consumer of the food, as served, would not ordinarily anticipate and guard against. 

The Florida man should not be able to recover damages for unfit food since there was nothing harmful per se in the artichoke he was served. It is not what he ate that allegedly caused his injury, but how he ate it.  He would have a better case if his server had given him incorrect instructions on how to eat an artichoke.

If the Florida man ends up winning the case, it could expose a restaurant to liability any time a server does not explain to a customer how to eat something, like a lobster, relieving the customer of responsibility for asking the simple question, “How do I eat this?”

I will never look at a Pasta House artichoke the same way.