Giving a Fig

I have a fig tree in my back garden. It is a rather spectacular tree. It was cut down when they put up the garden shed. At least, I’m assuming that’s why it has a very thick trunk that is about four inches tall. Out of the top of the ‘trunk’ sprouts this huge canopy that is threatening to invade the shed and push over the fence and has claimed half the back lawn. I did intend to cut it back last year after it lost its leaves and went to sleep, but the time never seemed right and this year it has become more of a ‘fig monster.’

And it is laden, in the old-fashioned sense of ‘groaning.’ I go out in the morning and I pick a two litre ice-cream container full of figs. They are soft and starting to go purple, a day on the window ledge of the conservatory (a.k.a the fig nursery) and they are ready to eat. Then, a few hours later I’m putting out the washing or playing with the cat on the back lawn and, suddenly, there are more ready to be picked. I swear they were not ready six hours ago.

So I have a seemingly never-ending array of ice-cream containers of big juicy fresh figs. I stew them and roast them and freeze them and I give a fig, or five, or ten, or twenty, away. This morning I halved about twenty of them and roasted them. Halved lengthways and laid in a roasting pan. Brushed with some yummy chai syrup, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a good teaspoon of heated liquid honey on each one. Then into a pre-heated oven for 15mins. They are soft and ready to eat, but the syrup they are lying in is divine. So I baste them until there is not much syrup left in the pan and figs are glistening and sticky. Onto a platter and covered with some thin strips of lemon zest, the remaining cooking liquid into a small jug.

I took the platter to my church for the men to enjoy at tonight’s men’s dinner, with, or after, their BBQ. On Saturday night I’m going to a friend’s 60th birthday party and I will take another platter of roasted figs, probably with some ginger flavoured mascarpone.

I was going to the church because today I gave a speech at the monthly meeting of our local arthritis group. They meet in the church hall lounge. I talked to them about my book and how it came into being and what is coming next. They gave me a lovely card and a very cool New Zealand luggage tag for my suitcase. Like all the local institutions that meet in Cambridge, they bring home baking for afternoon tea. Scones and fruit loaf and citrus slice, the usual ‘get thee behind me Satan’ stuff.

I’ve walked to and from the church three days in a row this week, Sunday for service, yesterday to help at the Selwyn Centre for the elderly and today to make my speech. It’s a very pleasant walk and I can do it easily in 30 minutes now. I invariably meet people I know on the way and sometimes they say nice things about my book or pass on nice comments from their relatives who received the book from them for Christmas. I never miss the opportunity to tell them that there is another one coming later in the year.

Then I get home, hot, but feeling energised from my walk, and lo and behold, there are more figs to be picked. When I come back from my three month jaunt across the USA I am going to take up my pruning shears and give that tree a thorough haircut and as I do I’m going to explain to it who is the boss around here and who gives a fig.

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