Have I mentioned my love for figs? I probably should have because my adoration for them might make you a little uncomfortable but since you already love me, it will be too late to stop reading. Face it, you’re stuck.

I SO look forward to fall because figs are really a seasonal fruit, which is different than a-kind-of-seasonal fruit which you can get all year round because everyone everywhere wants to have them in their kitchen even if it’s December and the hankering is for strawberries. It will only cost you $16.99 for a handful, but you can get them. Not so for figs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them in the produce section except for fall. But that is probably just fine, because when I do get them, they are sweet and wonderfully full of flavor instead of pretty looking but tasting like cardboard.

My passion for figs started quite early. My grandparents would sit around our long dinner table (They were at my house, you see, because it was fall. In the summer we went to their house.) and talk grown-up talk and at age six or seven, there just wasn’t anything much better than getting to sit with them and crack nuts, eat cheeses and partake of the delicious flesh of figs. I would over hear about how so-and-so was doing, people I couldn’t remember hearing about before, but as long as you were quiet and polite, they didn’t even notice. And they’d crack open an almond or pecan and leave the shelly mess in front of you to pick the meat out. Sometimes it was challenging. But sometimes it was easy and I’d use that little silver pick to get the flesh out. And the large crates of citrus from their groves in Arizona would be piled over in the corner, the oranges and grapefruit smells permeating the entire house and almost disguising the regular smell of House. It was perfect.

Sometimes, My aunt, the funny one that teased a little (but only in a good way) would come over, too, and it would be those times that I would freeze, hand mid-way to my mouth with a nice, plump piece of nut meat, and stare at the person my mother had become. Laughing and radiant. She was even more beautiful than usual. It was amazing to look at her with her head slightly back, laughing so hard that sometimes you could see tears at the corner of her eyes.

One time, my grandpa showed me how the figs were different tasting when they were only days apart in age. He sliced a whole series open with his pocketknife and showed me the colors in the itty, bitty seeds and had me taste little slices of them. His favorites were the ones right in the middle. I liked the least ripe ones that were firmer. And we both agreed that the very, very ripe ones were just too sweet for eating and should be used in baking. If he were here to ask me now, I’d tell him that I agree, the mid-point ripened figs are the best tasting. And also, my palette has matured and I now enjoy dates as well. He would be so proud.

I wish I had photos of the figs in my refrigerator for you, but the pictures wouldn’t be the same without his strong and weathered hands holding them, anyway. Or without my mother’s laugh.

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9 Comments

  1. I am moved by your tender and elegant recollections of the figs – and people – in your life. Your personal memoirs are some of the best I’ve encountered anywhere, Leah. You take us right there, to the table with your Aunt, to watching your Grandpa’s slice into the fig meat, to your mother’s radiant face.

    All of your work, visual art and writings, are great teachings and inspiration for all who read and know you, Leah.

    I wish you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving.

    Love,
    Grace

  2. Really? I just saw a package of figs for the first time last night, and I thought they looked rather disgusting. Is there a certain way to prepare them to make them more appetizing?

  3. kyran – i know! i ask the produce guy to rinse them off for me so i can eat them right away.

    grace – i love you. have a wonderful thanksgiving and love to your family.

    doahleigh – if you have not tasted the fig, you have not truly lived. just wash, cut the ends off and eat. if they are very squishy (ripe) try a different one that is only mid-squish.

    neil – my brother. but i’ve always said he has no taste.

    dear schmutzie – you are by far the best ‘memory’ poster i’ve ever read on this here internet. i’m trying to wait patiently for your book. (ahem)

  4. i’ve never had a fig. i love fig newtons though, does that mean i will love figs even more or is it one of those things where they taste nothing alike at all?

    how do you pick a good one, do you eat the skin and all? what of the seeds? the truth is, i’ve never seen a fresh fig. well, i probably have but walked right by it not knowing what it was.

    this is the time for pomegranates, but i want to try other things too. please enlighten me.

    also, wednesday was my birthday, and one of the things my parents bought me was your book. especially after reading the way you wrote this entry, i can’t wait to start reading the book.

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