Figs for breakfast

A Kind of Roman Breakfast!

When I was a child, summer holidays were extra special.  We joined the great exodus of Italians “going home” for August.  My father, like many Italians, started his working life in London as a waiter.  Sometimes the restaurant he worked in, usually Italian, shut for the month to allow staff to be with their families.  Other times, it didn´t, which often meant a return from holiday at the start of September with no job for my father.  I´ve only recently thought about this and how difficult and precarious things must have been for the family financially at times and the sacrifices they made for us children.

My family, however, thought it was important for my brother and I to be in Italy with our many cousins and aunties and uncles, spending time being free on the beach, eating meals late at night, talking Italian and sharing that special love that comes from a huge extended family. I thank them for it, I´m sure much of what I experienced in those summer holidays helped make me the person I am today.

We often drove to Italy as putting the car on the overnight train from Calais to Milan was expensive.  Then we faced a further day or two of journey to the very south, the “toe of the boot”, to Calabria. It was an epic journey, but it was made fun with plenty of food, books to read, songs to sing in the car (no DVDs or Playstations then!) and stops along the way to visit more family and friends.

We always stopped in Roma, where my father had spent a portion of his youth and visited Zia Sara and Zio Angelo.  Roma has some wonderful food markets and I have strong memories of someone going out in the morning to buy focaccia for breakfast – that typical flat white bread drizzled with olive oil, coarse salt and sometimes rosemary.  I don´t know if it was a Roman thing, or a family thing, but if we were lucky we also got a bag of juicy figs to go with it.  An extra sprinkle of salt, a little drizzle of olive oil and it was heaven on a piece of bread.  Sweet, salty and peppery all at the same time.

Now I try to recreate it with griddled bread, a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and a drizzle of our very own olive oil.  It´s not quite the same, but the memories make it all the sweeter.


29 thoughts on “Figs for breakfast

  1. What a wonderful read! Such happy childhood memories. I have never eaten figs on toast before – will definitely give it a try at the end of this year when our tree in our front garden starts bearing fruit. I usually just stand in the shade of the tree picking off figs and eating them right there until my belly feels like it’s going to pop.
    🙂 Mandy

    1. Thanks Mandy – I have to confess, we have a fig tree that gives us fruit in September and most of them don´t even make it up to the house as we stand under the tree and scoff them!

  2. The perfect breakfast! I do this with olive oil and our own fig jam for breakfast – must try it with fresh figs now it’s that time of year again. Your childhood summers remind me of mine, in the opposite direction, as our family drove the length of Italy and through France to Wales, having crossed by boat from Benghazi. How my mother kept us occupied while my father drove, I don’t know, but it was fun!

    1. Fog jam is great isn´t it? And you have all that lovely cheese and paté too where you are ….jealous! Good lord, all the way from Banghazi? Your poor parents, what a strain that must have been for them!

  3. I make sandwiches with figs on griddled bread too, with a little cheese on the top and, of course, olive oil. The perfect dinner for me !
    Sweet memories !

    1. They are very pretty, you´re right! We have brevas (the early summer figs) and higos (the late summer figs). Some trees produce two crops, ours sadly 😦 only once in September.

  4. Very touching story! I can imagine that taking the Salerno – Reggio Calabria highway must have been quite a journey!! As for pizza bianca, it is soooo Rome! My husband often goes to this tavola calda where they make one of the best pizza biancas in Rome. He brings it home at night and we can’t get enough of it. It is also a very common to get pizza fresh bianca at the Alimentari in the mornings but I have never seen it with figs!! Yummy. I have to wait until late summer though, since I begin to see figs in the markets around August!!!

    1. You know the journey we took! I even remember traffic jams where everyone got out of their cars to share food and drink (even wine in those days!) 🙂 The anticipation of the figs is almost as good as the eating….! Aaaah – pizza bianca from the tavola calda, now you´re talking.!

  5. I love figs..but never had them on toast
    My grandparents had an amazing huge fig tree in from of their house that we used to climb and hide between its branches as kids..
    Thank you for the sweet memory

    1. Aah – what a lovely memory for you too. My dad always used to talk about a cherry tree they had outside their house which the children all climbed until one of his brothers fell out of it and cracked his head open (ouch!). Luckily he was patched up but the tree was then out of bounds…..!

  6. We have ‘a’ fig tree each year we get one more fig than the year before…. I think we are up to six figs this season…. We normally have a big to-do with the figs on a platter with some other fruits, cheeses, breads, crackers and such and have a wonderful time eating the figs, each person gets the same amount, we both love figs….RaeDi

    T says this year we are having a bumper crop…!

    1. Hurrah for your bumper crop! We had a tomato plant (a cherry tomato) which one year only produced about 4 tomatoes, so we made a big ceremony of stuffing them – I think there was more garnish than tomato!

  7. Yummy figs… we have a fig tree in the garden, but it needs just the right amount of sun and rain otherwise they taste horrible! I wonder if chickens like figs?!!

    1. Chickens adore figs – some of our branches are very low hanging and those are a treat for the chickies who free range underneath! The tree does need a good balance of sun and water though, you´re right, but they are so worth that effort of watering if it´s dry.

  8. Figs make me soooooooooo happy! You’re lucky – I won’t be harvesting mine for a few weeks yet and then only if I can beat the birds to ’em! Mmmm… love me some figs! With chevre is dandy, or broiled, or just off the tree!!

      1. Aha!!! Caught you, then! (grin) Many fond memories of cycling in France and eating amazing figs from trees that were just growing in ditches on the sides of the roads… Mmmm and ohlalala!!

  9. I love figs. I want a fig tree. My grandparents had one in their backyard, and I was always getting caught gobbling all the figs without washing them. Yep, and I survived. 😉
    ❤ your post!

  10. Such a lovely read, Chica!! Thank you for sharing your memories….it sounds like another world to me, here at the bottom end of Africa 🙂

    I have never tasted figs on toast with olive oil, sounds aboslutely amazing! Can’t wait for fig season.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it – and they were happy memories indeed! When fig season comes around, give it a go, I hope you enjoy it. Mind you, I bet you have a few good recipes for putting them on the bbq too!

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