The Wine Country Online

Sexy Figs

By Jack Burton

A cook and chef since the late 1960's, Jack writes stories of his well-traveled working tours of the tail-end of the twentieth century. His first published book, Sonoma Picnic, a California Travel Companion, is available through the Book Shop.

    Sometime, around the tail end of my first marriage. On the northernmost extreme of a south-bound relationship. Someone told me that, in summer, Italian women were given to sizing up a potential lover by the way the individual would address and eat a nice, ripe fig.

    Apparently, I had not given figs their due! Even though I was working as a chef at the time and living in the town of Portland, Oregon, where figs grow profusely.

    I guess I had not been ready to think about food, figs, and cooking as anything more than a means to an end: that thing I did for my paycheck.

    Oh, I had traveled. Slowly and well. By thumb, and train. By bus, auto and motorcycle. Food and cooking was my thing! I thought I had been diligent in my collecting of recipes and insight.

    I had all the photos of a spice bazaar, pâtisserie, and trattoria. I had been all around. Crazy for food and cooking. But it took that one little observation about figs to make me really think about the soul and joy native to the simplest of details.

    This insight came too late for my first marriage.

    I was there loitering at the station. Sheepish with my figs. But the train had already pulled out with a whole big chunk of my life onboard.

    Lucky for me, there was a woman whose eye I had managed to catch.

    I courted her with figs. And we continue to keep one another amused with figs. With figs, and sweet kisses, and red wine, and precious time.

    I try not to take anything for granted anymore.

Bread Salad with Dried Figs

    This is a rustic salad that travels well, and is a favorite picnic treat for outings that come in the months on either side of tomato season.


1/2 lb.Good, rustic bread, cut into bite-sized chunks and toasted lightly with butter and olive oil
1CGreen olives    French vertes or louques
1CDried figs, prunes, or raisins that have been pre-soaked for an hour or so in 3T warm red wine
1/2CFresh fennel, julianned
1Orange, juice and zest
1 head  Romaine hearts, chunks
Olive oil
Black pepper