Once Upon A Fig
There was a fig tree in the backyard of the house where my grandfather was born in Yaguajay, Cuba. I know this because he told me the story-often. Having moved with his family to Havana, he found himself in the province years later and decided to knock on the door of his old house. He asked the family living there if they had a fig tree, and they brought him through the house and showed it to him. Only then did he tell them who he was and how he knew it was there. I always wondered why they’d let him go through the house in the first place and pictured their polite confusion while they waited to see where all this was going. Mostly, I wondered why my grandfather was telling me a story about a tree. He’d been born at the turn of the last century and lived well into his nineties. He married and raised a family, lived through depressions, wars and revolutions, so I didn’t understand where a story about a fig tree figured. I didn’t even like figs then and picked around the dried ones he occasionally slipped into our bread pudding. It’s only as an adult that I learned to love them, fresh or dried. Of course, I realize now that picking fresh figs from a tree is something to miss. I’m also happy he repeated the story so many times because I feel that if I ever found myself in Yaguajay, I could find my way to that tree.
Compota de Higos con Vino Tinto y Especias/Fig Compote with Red Wine and Spices
When I posted about calimyrna figs a few weeks ago, I knew that I wanted to try this recipe for fig compote with red wine and spices I found in Simone and Inés Ortega’s 1080 Recipes. I talk myself out of buying figs sometimes because I can’t use them fast enough. This is a fast and easy way to use them right away and the spices permeate the house.
3 tablespoons red wine
2 large pieces of thinly pared orange rind
3 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 sprig fresh mint
12 large figs, peeled
Pour 4 1/2 ounces of water and the wine into a saucepan. Add the the orange rind, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and mint and bring to a low simmer for 10 minutes. Add the figs and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the figs and set aside in a serving bowl. Continue to simmer the liquid for 15 minutes. Strain over figs. Remove the orange rind and cut into strips then add to compote. Chill in the refrigerator.