Monday, March 31, 2008

Ode to the Fig

In nearly every Brazilian grocery store you’ll find plastic tubs filled with sparkling green fruits, like oversized sugar-studded raw emeralds, and more ominous looking tubs containing pale green liquid in which float large moss-colored teardrops. Figs. Preserved in sugar syrup, the figs are oddly gelatinous, mysteriously creamy and hinting at crunchy at the same time, their flesh infused with cloves and sweetness. Eating one is the taste experience of an afternoon at a French perfumer’s workshop.

For several weeks now, the grocery stores have been offering boxes of fresh figs, most so squashed and mushy, wrapped in plastic film and oozing through the soft cardboard, that I avoided even experimenting. How wrong I was! I finally broke down and bought a carton the other day because this recipe for a warm fig, pesto and mozzarella sandwich wouldn’t leave my food-obsessed brain. Figs were never part of my fruit vocabulary. In Bible stories, yes, where I had some vague idea of them being fuzzy and yellow, or maybe hard green things a bit like olives. But besides the preserved kind, I’d never eaten a real fig. (Well, maybe one fig newton when I was a kid, because the television commercials tricked me…)

I have now eaten half the carton: drenched with honey for breakfast, alone, sandwiched between leaves of fresh basil, mozzarella and olive oil on my cheap 9-grain bread...

I like them. I really like them. It's such an interesting taste combination, with the skin and the flesh and the teeny-tiny seeds. I can't wait to do some more experiments. Send recipes, dear readers, please!


Ali la Loca said...

Girl, you can imagine the insanity at my mom's house (and, incidentally at my Grandmother's in Italy) where there are gigantic, over 200-year-old fig trees weighed down with massive crops each year. I eat so many fresh figs if I am lucky enough to be at either place at the right time that my lips become burned from the acid in the fruit.

The best way to eat, I think, is drizzled with leite condensado.

pamela said...

I always eat them fresh and whole, so have no recipe advice. What I do know is that they are incredibly delicious and it makes me sad that they are such a delicate fruit you can only get them near where they are produced. Whatever you do, eat them by the carton while they are around!