Once upon a time, not so long ago or far away, there was a very special fig.Figgy [as she liked to be called] was no ordinary fig. She was a fig with aspirations.
Indeed, all figs have aspirations; they all want to be immortal. In the glory of their ripeness, they put on their dusky makeup and most alluring perfume in hopes of attracting hungry birds and beasts to spread their seed.
But our Figgy wanted something different for herself. She wanted to go out in a blaze of glory and to live on as a fond memory.
To this end, Figgy placed ads in dozens of newspapers. She received many replies, but thought none earnest. [She was convinced that they were all just greedy bluejays.] Then she received a call from a chef who seemed genuinely interested. Figgy followed her instincts and agreed to a formal meeting.
The meeting was held at the chef's restaurant. Chef greeted her warmly and seated her at a table in the kitchen, then proceeded to present her with dish after dish of the finest food she had ever tasted. After dinner, Chef joined Figgy for a glass of Port and asked her about herself.
Figgy told Chef that her ancestors had come from a faraway land that was once called Persia, but is now known as Iran. They had lived there for centuries in the most splendid gardens that the world had ever seen.
"Did you know that the word paradise is from an ancient Persian word for walled garden?" asked Figgy.
From there, they migrated west to Egypt, then north to Greece, where figs were held in high esteem by both slaves and royalty.
"My forebears were among the figs that concealed the asp in Cleopatra's basket and flourished in King Alcinous' orchard during Odysseus' visit."
"Fascinating", said Chef and begged her to continue.
"Successive generations continued westward along the Mediterranean: Rome, Provence, Andalucia, and finally the Algarve, where my grandmother settled. When my mother was just a sapling, she was packed in a box and shipped across the Atlantic to New England. That's where she lives now; in a pot on a terrace during the bearing season and winters in a heated greenhouse. She is happy and well cared for."
"And you?" asked Chef, "Tell me why you're here."
"I was born in the greenhouse and moved onto the terrace when I was still very young. The family that cared for us would gather there every night for dinner. From high up on one of my mother's boughs, I would watch them feast on the most sumptuous foods. With every bite, they all agreed that it was the best they had ever tasted and that they would remember it forever. It was then that I realized that I didn't want to be gobbled up by a hungry bird. I want to be savored, to be lingered over, to be remembered! I'm hoping that you can help me with that."
"I will do my best, but tell me... what would you like me to do with you?"
Figgy had thought long and hard about this. It's true; she was a dreamer, but she was also a sensible fig. She understood that in order to make a lasting impression, she needed some enhancement. In her haste to fulfill her destiny, perhaps she had left her mother too soon and was not as sweet and ripe as she could have been.
"I can fix that with a bit of honey." said Chef.
Figgy's mother had taught her many things about her history and her anatomy. She often lamented that figs are mistaken for fruit when they are actually flowers. She had explained that inside herself were hundreds of flowers that looked like long, thin filaments, and that each one held a seed. These seeds, she had said, were what perpetuated their species and held them in regard as an ancient symbol of fertility. But they were often cursed by humans for getting caught in their teeth and interrupting the sensual experience of eating figs.
Chef listened to her concern and suggested that a blender would break down her seeds, if she would allow it.
Figgy was not afraid of the blender or what it would do to her, she was ready to sacrifice herself fully. But she was adamant about retaining her form, of which she was fiercely proud, despite it's phallic shape that has been a source of embarrassment to both men and women throughout the ages. So much so, that the original Arabic word for figs is now considered an obscenity.
"No problem" said Chef "I can mold you so that you will look exactly like yourself, but better."
This pleased Figgy and she was anxious to get started, but Chef was hesitant.
"I think that to make you truly memorable, you will need to share the spotlight with other flavors. If we do it right, they will not rob you of your glory, but make you more delicious. Will you trust me?"
When Figgy seemed amenable, Chef continued, "Great! I'd like to introduce you to some of my friends that I think you will get along with very nicely."
Chef rushed into the kitchen, swept things up off the counter, and laid them out in front of Figgy.
"First, I'd like you to meet Onion Caramel. She may look cloyingly sweet, but she's surprisingly sassy."
"Yes, I like her." said Figgy taking a taste "She's got lots of personality!"
"Next, there's Dark Chocolate. He's smooth, suave, mysterious and seductive, but with a bitter edge to balance your sweetness."
"Oh my, I'd better stand my ground with him or he will sweep me off my feet."
"And, finally" said Chef, lifting the lid off a round, wooden box "there's Epoisses."
Figgy shrieked and stepped back, holding her breath.
"Now don't be afraid. I know Epoisses seems offensive, but I assure you, it's only skin-deep. If you take some time to get to know her, you'll find that she's full of character and actually sweet and mild on the inside."
Figgy watched Chef cut through the rind and expose a pale, creamy heart. She tasted carefully and found Epoisses agreeable and lovely.
"So, when do we get started?" asked Figgy.
The next morning Chef entered the kitchen to find Figgy and her friends engaged in a lively conversation.
When Chef asked Figgy if she was ready, she pulled Chef aside and said in a hushed tone, "I really love my new friends. We couldn't get along any better, but I'm worried. They are all such wonderfully memorable characters, how can I stand out among them?"
Chef understood and said reassuringly, "Figgy, I promise you that when I present your dish tonight that it will only be you that they see. And from then on, when they remember your dish, it will be you that they reference."
Chef and staff worked steadily throughout the day in preparation for the special meal. Every seat for both sittings were full and expectations were high. Course after course of Chef's carefully planned and executed meal was dispatched from the kitchen with only a few minor glitches. Figgy's dish was the final course.
When the last plate left the kitchen, Chef congratulated the staff, cleared the pass, hung her apron, and entered the dining room.
Late that evening, Chef was alone in the kitchen writing menus, taking inventory, and listing orders for the next day's deliveries. Intermittently, she paused to reflect on the evening's accolades. There had been so many kind words from her guests: enthusiastic bloggers snapped photos and offered praise, critics hinted at rave reviews. There was even conjecture of a Michelin star. But the words that pleased her most were: "...the fig dish...", followed by various adjectives, " fantastic!... delicious!... brilliant!... memorable!"
As Chef turned the lock on the restaurant for the night, she felt overwhelming gratification.
For giving her best.
For pleasing her guests.
For making her staff proud.
But most of all, for keeping her promise to Figgy.
left to right:
dark chocolate-covered epoisses