Fig Fest!

This is not really Cleopatra. This is Vivian Leigh. If you’ve seen busts and coins that show what Cleopatra really looked like…well, she must’ve had a really good personality.

Cleopatra says, “Oh, excellent!  I love long life better than I love figs!” in Antony and Cleopatra (do you see me here, quoting Shakespeare??).  Her enthusiasm (I mean, who doesn’t love long life?) for figs speaks to their appeal.  Although, in this day and non-Mediterranean age and locale, there seem to be either fig lovers or fig…well,

Figs in about March

haters seems a bit strong, so fig dislikers. Most people enjoy a Newton, but the fig relationship is snuffed out with the emptying of the package.  We’ve always been big Fig Newton fans (big fans, not big Newtons, although big Newtons would be fine, too),

Figs in June

and we are blessed with a prolific fig tree in our yard, which was, back some many moons, a volunteer.  A stray, if you will.  The figs we grow are entirely organic (not exactly due to our commitment to the earth’s well-being, rather that the tree thrives on neglect), and quite large.  Some of them verge on being the size of a pear!

Every year the tree is very generous, giving enough not only for us, but also for the birds, the deer, and the rabbits, too.  I like to use as many as possible fresh, but then I am

The harvest

still left with a lot of unused figs.  I bought a dehydrator, which is like a triple-decker cooling rack, except that it is enclosed and has a fan that blows warm air on the fruit.  I have tried this many times and, sadly, have been left with tough little carcasses of figs, rather than the sticky lusciousness you get with a store-bought dried fig.  So why keep trying it? Hope springs eternal, I guess (and yes, I do know the definition of stupidity).  But this year I looked into it online, and on eHow I found a way to oven-dry the figs.  It worked very well.

The first thing you do is to make sure all your figs are ripe, clean, and free of bird, uh, detritus. Then preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Cut off the stems, then slice all the figs lengthwise.  Place the

Ready for the oven

figs, cut side down, in a shallow dish with sides.  I used Pyrex 9x13s, and they worked well, but use a dish to fit the amount of figs you have, as the figs need to fit snugly in the dish.  You need a pan with sides because the figs give off a lot of juice, and you want to contain it.    Place the dish with the figs in the oven, and set the timer for one hour.  After an hour, turn the figs over, cut side up.  The juice should be starting to flow now, so kind of mop it up with the figs as you turn them over. Set the timer for another hour and repeat, this time turning the figs cut side down, mopping up the juice again. Set timer for an hour again, and turn figs

After an hour

cut side up.  If you have a lot of juice, tilt the pan and use a spoon to drizzle that juice over the figs. At the end of three hours, the figs will be dark, wrinkly, sticky, and fragrant. Reduce the heat to 200 degrees, and return the figs, still cut side up, to the oven for about 30 to 45 more minutes. That will allow the excess liquid to evaporate, the figs to dry somewhat, and the texture to become more like that of “real” dried figs.  The whole process will have taken about three-and-a-half hours. Turn the oven off and allow the figs to cool down in the oven (I left them in the oven overnight and it was fine).

Finished product

These figs stay quite moist, so I would store them in the fridge for short-term use, or freeze them for longer storage.

This isn’t exactly a cost saving recipe–the oven is on for a very long time.  But what you do get is some tasty, nutritious dried fruit that is prepared with absolutely no chemicals or preservatives.  I made fig bread, which was delicious toasted with either brie or blue cheese on it, and will be making fig bars soon.

Apparently figs were one of the first foods cultivated for agriculture, 11,000 years ago in the Middle East, according to Wikipedia.  I don’t understand why they are not used today to help solve hunger problems.  While they do need some winter rain, they don’t need any water for about 9 months out of the year, and they seem to self-sow.  In addition, they produce two crops every year, one in June and the other in about August–there are huge amounts of fruit! I would think some poverty-stricken areas in the world could use a few fig trees to help alleviate some of their problems.  Figs are very high in sugar, which would surely be a boon to starvation-prone areas.  They even have a little protein in them!

Well, I’m off to dry another batch, and then I will wait for the second crop to ripen.  And so it goes.

Almost ripe fig with second crop on deck

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Relief for Your Tootsies

I kid you not. They looked just like this!

First, some theme music (take note of the shoes the girl in the video is wearing!). Put it on, and then come back. When I was in college, I wore high-heeled shoes that were chic (at the time) but oh so painful.  I prided myself on not limping, even when my feet were actually bleeding.  I would walk all over campus in ridiculously uncomfortable shoes, due mainly to the fact that I looked, well, fabulous (humor me–it was the ’80s).  Ahh youth.  Ahh vanity–all, sadly, missing from my life these days.  Fabulous?  Umm…no.  Youth?  Nuh-uh.  Vanity?  Struggling to keep her head above water, but rapidly losing out to comfort.

Every now and then, however, events come to pass where I have to wear shoes that are less than comfy.  Or even just on a day-to-day basis, I have a couple of pairs of flats that, while not terribly uncomfortable on the whole, rub my feet a bit, making me very glad to take them off ASAP.  So anyway, a recent outing led me

Similar to this, but mine are black.

to wear a pair of rather high, platform wedge espadrilles.  I knew I’d be on my feet for a long time, so I thought I’d look into some pain prevention.  Band-aids are no good here–maybe it’s just me, but they slip off very quickly when I try to use them inside shoes.  Instead of Band-aids I use waterproof first-aid tape (the white stuff), which works pretty well.  But these platforms were peep-toe, and slingback as well.  So no, white tape would not work.

Then one day I was in Target and thought I’d take a gander at the shoe accoutrements, to see if there was anything that would be helpful.  Lo and behold, there was!  Well, at the time I didn’t know it was helpful, but I soon found out.  It’s this stuff called Fab Feet Blisstick.  It is invisible blister protection.  It’s just beeswax and hydrogenated vegetable oil (wait–isn’t that Crisco??) and a little fragrance.  The container is like a tiny stick of deodorant.  All you do is apply it to your foot anywhere you think there may be rubbing that would end in a blister.  Before my event, I tried it with flats.  It was fantastic!  I wore them all day, for the first time ever, with no pain! So when I had to wear my platforms, I whipped the Blisstick out again, and truly, it was amazing! I wore those darn shoes for about nine hours, with no blisters The Blisstick makes a slippery (but not messy) coating on your skin that prevents rubbing.  And I was worried about it staining the leather, but it didn’t.  So what a find, just in time for sandal season!  Highly recommended!

Grown-up Fun

Well, I just don’t know what to tell you.  I thought I had an addiction that was mine alone.  But have you been in the Vacaville Costco on a Thursday or a Friday lately?  Everybody (no, really–everybody) has a bottle (or two or three) of Kirkland Premium Golden Margarita in their cart.  It’s ready-to-drink, and it is sooo good.  Addictive, in fact.  It’s tart, not too sweet (I don’t care for sweet cocktails), and very, very tasty.  I would not advise stepping on the bathroom scale after a day spent by the pool, quaffing this little number.  Heaven only knows what the calorie count is. Far better, frankly, not to know.  My vices are so few, and I don’t want to ruin it.  Apologies for the photo of the partially used bottle, but we seem unable to keep a new bottle unused for very long at all.  It’s about the same alcohol level as wine (12.7%), but somehow it’s just so much more festive!  Truly, it can’t be beat as a by- or in-the-pool drink.  (Of course you know that a blow-up pool is just as good as an in-ground pool for our purposes here–the cool, blue water is the object.)  $9.99 for that great big bottle?  Not much money, and certainly well spent.  My advice:  have plenty of ice on hand, and get dinner ready BEFORE you head out to the pool with your little cocktail(s).

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