Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.
I have eaten fresh figs in the past -- but somehow I had never really eaten a fresh fig. Or maybe that sentence should read "...somehow I had never eaten a really fresh fig." Until yesterday.
It was a completely serendipitous moment: a visit to the Connecticut home of old family friends, now quite elderly. Their daughter, my friend Wendy, had flown in from Chicago, and called to ask if I would come up to visit while she was in town to celebrate her mother's birthday (and it was indeed a birthday of some note). We have many strands of connection. Wendy's mother had been my own mother's closest, most sister-like girlhood friend. I was the flower girl at Wendy's wedding. And these are the friends who generously offered their beautiful home as the venue for one of our own wedding parties last May, gorgeously situated at the top of a hill overlooking the Long Island Sound.
When we're all together, I am always pierced with that sense of missing my mother in the company of others who also miss her, deeply and daily. It's the sort of bittersweet feeling you would rather have than not have.
Before I left, I was told that I must go out and gather some figs to take home. Never one to turn down an opportunity like that, I asked Wendy to come outside with me as her parents went off for their afternoon rest. "Won't they miss these figs?" I asked. "No," said Wendy. "They have so many, they don't know what to do with them." Oh, to have a fruit tree. The figs were ripe and perfect, and I popped a little one in my mouth as we picked forty or so of them.
I was surprised. They didn't have the insipid sugary flavor that I've come to associate with figs, even fine, farmers' market specimens. These were complex and floral, with a lovely tang countering the sweetness, a bit like fresh ripe berries but with their own fibrous figgy texture.
On the train ride home, I ate more of them. And despite the fact that recently I've been baking up a storm, and that our kitchen contained no less than three different homemade goodies -- pumpkin apple streusel bread, scented madeleines, chocolate-coconut-almond bars -- more figs were what I wanted for dessert last night.
I don't know why they're so different from any other figs I've eaten. Is it simply that they were ripened on the tree, and picked so recently? If so, then these are the only sort of figs that I ever really want to eat.
I might have been a momentary purist, and said that I only wanted figs for dessert last night. But if the truth be known, the figs are also very very good with those scented madeleines.