Growing up in south Louisiana, figs weren’t so much a delicacy as they were a fact of life, something to be dealt with. In June and July, it’s hard to keep up with the mass ripening. Figs are constantly foisted upon summer potlucks, and I feel kind of meh when that happens. My coworker brings hundreds of figs into the office kitchen during the summer season. It’s either that or let the fig trees throw their fruit to the ground, where it lays smashed, overripe, ringed with mosquitoes and fruit flies. I didn’t develop a taste for figs until my thirties.
Last night I was reading Sweetbitter, which an Airbnber left behind (thanks, Airbnber). Sweetbitter kind of makes me want to wait tables again, even though I know it was really nowhere near as great as the book makes it sound (at least for me it wasn’t, but I didn’t work at a tony Manhattan place). Anyway, there’s this part where the narrator’s crush leaves a secret gift of figs in her locker. They become sort of this symbol for voluptuousness and sensuality. He gives her four figs–only four!– and she devours them and likens them to sunlight.
Since we have a fig surplus down here, it was novel to for me to see them depicted as precious and rare. Was it really impossible to grow figs in most of the country, I wondered? I googled “Where do figs grow in the US” and learned about how ancient figs are, how they were the first fruits ever domesticated by man, and I realized figs really ARE precious and rare and voluptuous, and they DO taste like sunlight. And then I learned they can only be grown in the very deep south and California. I felt grateful to be from a place where magic is so commonplace, we don’t always see it for what it is.