That’s me: a big fig pig. Fresh figs call my name this time of year (who knew they could speak?), and they call it LOUD!
I never knew how good figs could be until I tried fresh ones. Until a few years ago, my fig experiences were limited to Fig Newtons and such, which aren’t bad, but not exactly memorable, either, at least to me. (I know there are rabid Newtonians out there, including my dad, and I’m delighted for you. Chew on!)
A friend brought fresh figs to work in 2005. She left them in the copy room, which is what we do with whatever goodies we want to share with the office. (Examples include lots of squash and zucchini in season; chocolate-peanut-butter “buckeyes” when Ohio’s football season starts; King Cake from a co-worker’s family in New Orleans around Mardi Gras; Christmas “thank-you” baskets from vendors–yeeha!)
So I look at the fresh figs with some curiosity, wondering how they compare to (what I consider lackluster) Fig Newtons. They’re small-ish fruit with brownish-purple skins, rounded at one end and tapering towards the stem at the other. Some are slightly cracked, hinting at their juicy interiors. They’re intriguing, they’re something I want to try, so I sink my teeth into fig flesh–
Good golly day! They’re unbelievably good! Like rain and sunshine somehow caught up together in a fragile skin, bursting under the least pressure to reveal their ripeness. No wonder painters are always trying to capture them in still life studies! No wonder Italians are always wrapping them in prosciutto or baking them into once-a-year-fig-delicacies–I, too, could spend the all-too-brief fig season doing nothing but indulging in fresh figs. And I’m supposed to go back to my desk and keep working, as nothing has happened? I want to run out in the streets of Asheville, shouting out my fig joy!
I eventually return to my desk, of course, with my mind full of the possibilities of figs: what can I do that best showcases their character and my newfound admiration for them? Dollops of chevre? Anointment with balsamic vinegar? Carmelization to preserve their perfection behind glass? These are the questions that distract me from PowerPoint and send me into a covert fig-googling operation…