by D.H. Lawrence
The proper way to eat a fig, in society,
Is to split it in four, holding it by the stump,
And open it, so that it is a glittering, rosy, moist, honied, heavy-petalled four-petalled flower.
Then you throw away the skin
Which is just like a four-sepalled calyx,
After you have taken off the blossom, with your lips.
But the vulgar way
Is just to put your mouth to the crack, and take out the flesh in one bite.
My blog header is evidence that I am an ardent fig lover. I cannot resist it’s velvety smooth skin, sweet and succulent flesh, and delicate seeds. My wine group will attest to the fact that I’ve trespassed and stolen a few during trips to Provence and Oregon! Knowing this, they generously indulge me during fig season. Ralph’s latest offering was figs stuffed with Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue Cheese wrapped in the thinnest slices of prosciutto. Here’s Helen, another wine buddy, preparing her fig-based appetizer during a recent wine dinner (recipe below). Love her for it!
I was not aware that there are poems about figs, or proper ways to eat a fig, but I must fit in the ‘vulgar’ category! I usually first take a bite of the entire fig (why trash the skin?) and admire the juicy red flowers inside. Fresh and ripened on the vine is best, if you can beat the early birds. And eat soon after harvesting as they sour quickly.
Husbie is experimenting with varieties that grow successfully along the Texas coast. The recent drought did not bode well for our trees this year but we did manage to harvest enough of the Brown Turkey variety for a grilled pizza with goat cheese, pancetta and freshly ground black pepper. With a spring salad on the side, you be the judge!
The fig is believed to be the first food source to be cultivated over 11,000 years ago in the Lower Jordan Valley in Israel and it subsequently became a staple for people in the Mediterranean. It is the first fruit to be mentioned in the Bible and is referenced many times thereafter. Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together to make ‘aprons’ (Genesis 3:7). Seven hundred fig trees in moveable pots in the Figuerie at Versailles were tended so as to satisfy the desires of Louis XIV . Thanks to the innovative methods used by the head gardener, La Quintinie, the trees were able to supply figs for six months of the year.
Due to it’s high nutritional content, figs were especially valuable to the athletes in Ancient Greece. Figs are high in calcium, fiber, potassium and a variety of antioxidants. Figs were used by the Greeks and Romans to stuff geese so as to fatten their livers. It was known as ficatum, now foie gras in France. Oh how I would love to taste a fig-fattened foie gras and compare it to the corn-fed liver. Helen, what do you say about getting us a couple of geese and some figs…?
Grilled Figs with Mascarpone, Mint, Port and Prosciutto from Sharing the Vineyard Table by Carolyn Wente and Kimball Jones.
8 fresh figs
¼ cup non-vintage port
3 tablespoons mascarpone
4 very thin slices prosciutto
4 large mint leaves, for garnish
Cut off the ends of the figs and split in half lengthwise. Macerate in the port for an hour. Prepare a small fire in your grill and cook the figs for a moment on each side, just enough to warm the figs and give them a smoky flavor. They should remain firm. Spoon or pipe the mascarpone onto the cut sides of the figs, dividing it evenly. Cut the prosciutto into sixteen 1-inch wide strips. Wrap around the figs. Place on a serving platter. Slice the mint into very thin strips (chiffonade) and sprinkle over the figs.
The beautiful earthenware you see in these pictures are my sister’s fig plates in Oiseau Bleu by Gien. You’ll be seeing more of this striking collection in future posts, I’m sure.
To end, here’s a silly limerick by Edward Lear that will describe me later in life (hopefully!):
There was an Old Person of Ischia,
Whose conduct grew friskier and friskier;
He danced hornpipes and jigs,
and ate thousands of figs,
That lively Old Person of Ischia.