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August 22, 2016

Friends with Figs

Fig and Goat Cheese Pizza with Balsamic Drizzle
I've always wanted a fig tree, even after everyone I knew warned me against it.

"Fig trees are messy," seemed the most common rendition, although, there were just as many who warned about the birds. So, not wanting the hassle of an incessant fruit clean up, or, being able to imagine myself living the real life version of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, I gave up on the idea altogether.

But, I never gave up on figs. During the height of fig season, I'd head to the farmers market and queue up along with all of the other fig lovers, in front of the one vendor who was selling figs. And, I didn't care, nor did those who stood along with me, that I would shell out $5 or 6 dollars for a small basket.

Once home, I'd dole out the figs sparingly. One for Mr. B, one for me. Unless he wasn't looking, of course, then I'd quickly pluck an extra one from the basket and shove it into my mouth, hiding it in the hollow of my cheek if he came near. I know it sounds extreme and even selfish, but fig season didn't come as often as I would have liked, so it was every man--or, woman--for themselves.

Life without a fig tree left my culinary dreams unfulfilled. Of course I read cookbooks and looked on longingly at all of the fig creations that were just beyond my reach. I could only lust for the fig tarts, shiny under a sugary lacquer, salivate over plump figs, split down the middle and stuffed with goat cheese and a drizzle of honey, and go weak over that one picture of figs where the figs had been covered in butter and sugar, put under the broiler until they resembled miniature creme brulee and set atop scoops of vanilla ice cream.

We could spend all the time in the world looking at those pictures, but without the bounty of fruit that a fig tree would bear, we were limited. So, we ate the figs fresh from the basket, along side a piece of cheese, or maybe, sliced thin and topped with yogurt.

And, the years passed, with one uneventful fig season to another, until just recently when I discovered that a new coworker was having the opposite problem. She, was, you see, the owner of a fig tree, actually more, and she couldn't give her figs away fast enough. They were everywhere, she lamented, and the birds, there were far too many birds to count, descending on the trees, a tornado of noise and motion.

"Would you like some figs?" she asked.

"Would I!" I replied.

 The next day, she came walking in with a plastic shoe box filled to the brim and even after sharing with others, I walked to my car with the container still three quarters of the way full. Humming under my breath, new life in my step, my mind churning with the many recipes and dishes that I could tackle--and I could hear the sound of opportunity as I started the car and threw it into reverse.

I wanted to get home and show Mr. B, but I wasn't in any hurry. I rolled the windows down and turned the radio up, deciding at the last minute to take the long way home. After all, I thought, as I popped another fig into my mouth, it was a beautiful summer evening. Why not enjoy the ride?

Easy Weeknight Fig Pizzas

Fresh figs, washed and gently dried, sliced
Hard aged cheese; grated--I like roomkaas, a double cream Gouda
Good pita or flat bread
Currant, or other fruit, balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

1. Cover each flat bread with a generous handful of grated cheese.
2. Top with sliced figs and add a sprinkle more of the cheese.
3. Place under a broiler until bubbly and brown.
4. Drizzle balsamic vinegar and top with a sprinkle of sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
5. Best served with a glass of Rhone style Grenache



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