One of my best friends when I was a child was the fig tree in our family backyard. Middle children, in case you haven’t heard, are ignored, so I was forced to search the world – our home – for someone who would listen and connect with me. I found a tree.
She invited me with a knot in her trunk that I could easily step my 8-year-old foot upon and hop into the saddle-like seat that lay right between her two main branches and was perfectly grown for my tender tush. I could sit there cozily, for hours at a time, contemplating the meaning of life or simply picking my nose. Goldie, our appropriately named Golden Retriever, would stand on her hind legs and drop her tennis ball right into my crotch. And in between my life-changing thoughts and deep nose excavations, I would throw her ball into the joyful oblivion of our grassy lawn.
My friend the fig tree also had figs. Ones that I could eat. This would seem so obvious that I shouldn’t have to tell you about it, but I was raised by such city folk that I don’t think my parents were ever aware that something edible could come from anywhere but a restaurant or a freezer – let alone our own backyard.
I don’t know where my mother was while I was crouching down as a pre-schooler, eating the possibly poisonous wild strawberries that grew around our garage, but such is the bliss of childhood freedom. There was also an avocado tree that produced tons of avocados that only Teresa, our Guatemalan housekeeper, would eat. For the rest of us, it might as well have been a statue. In fact, it was Teresa that showed me the figs. She laughed with me as we watched the little milky drop appear when we picked one off a branch. And when I was a bit older, I crawled across my tree-friend’s perfectly safe branches on my own to pick myself a snack. My older sister Tamara would make fun of me for eating the figs, as if only a sloven would ever eat directly from a tree.
The fig tree is the original lifesource of the Garden of Eden. The Italians liken the fruit of the fig tree to the female reproductive organ. As a child, I was not aware of this divine feminine energy that my tree-friend embodied. But I know now that the fig must be dressed delicately and served with the intention to awaken the sublime and the sensual. Here is a recipe that does just that.