Figs for breakfast

23 Jun

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.

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29 Responses to “Figs for breakfast”

  1. thecompletecookbook June 23, 2011 at 11:30 #

    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

    • chicaandaluza June 23, 2011 at 13:13 #

      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. chaiselongue1 June 23, 2011 at 12:01 #

    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!

    • chicaandaluza June 23, 2011 at 13:14 #

      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. DANI June 23, 2011 at 12:06 #

    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 !

    • chicaandaluza June 23, 2011 at 13:15 #

      Now you´re talking – with cheese too. My stomach is rumbling at the thought and I know what I´ll be eating tomorrow!

  4. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide June 23, 2011 at 15:30 #

    That’s just lovely. Figs grow well down here. I think they’re a different variety, not sure. I just know they’re good. and so pretty.

    • chicaandaluza June 23, 2011 at 17:36 #

      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.

  5. gisellecagli June 23, 2011 at 19:03 #

    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!!!

    • chicaandaluza June 23, 2011 at 23:49 #

      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.!

  6. Ria June 23, 2011 at 19:20 #

    That looks a lovely breakfast – have you got figs now? Love to try it (hint, hint!!)

    • chicaandaluza June 23, 2011 at 23:50 #

      The ones on our tree won´t be ripe until September, but we have lots of lovely neighbours just dying to share!

  7. thefooddoctor June 23, 2011 at 19:47 #

    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

    • chicaandaluza June 23, 2011 at 23:55 #

      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…..!

  8. ....RaeDi June 23, 2011 at 19:50 #

    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…!

    • chicaandaluza June 23, 2011 at 23:57 #

      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!

  9. TheDorsetFinca June 23, 2011 at 20:26 #

    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?!!

    • chicaandaluza June 23, 2011 at 23:59 #

      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.

  10. Rachel June 23, 2011 at 20:27 #

    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!!

    • chicaandaluza June 23, 2011 at 23:59 #

      Don´t be jealous – these figs were “gifted”. We have to wait until September for ours 😦

      • Rachel June 24, 2011 at 02:28 #

        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!!

  11. JamieAnne June 24, 2011 at 01:54 #

    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!

    • chicaandaluza June 24, 2011 at 07:49 #

      I think we all did things that the “Health & Safety” people would raise their eyebrows at now…and you´re right, we survived!

  12. Tandy June 24, 2011 at 08:26 #

    what a lovely memory! I must try this savoury take on figs 🙂

  13. TBM June 24, 2011 at 15:25 #

    It looks so tasty and thanks for sharing the memories. Makes it even better!

  14. Fired Up Cooking SA July 10, 2011 at 18:56 #

    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.

    • chicaandaluza July 10, 2011 at 21:41 #

      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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