As a kid, the question “What’s your favorite fruit?” inevitably popped up across conversations with the majority of adults I encountered. It was part of the ‘getting to know you’ sequence, fielded by well-meaning adults who wanted to make conversation but didn’t quite know what else to say to an eight-year-old, usually emerging after the standard pleasantries about how big I’ve grown since the last time we met and what I wanted to be when I grew up. It was also a reserve of trivia information to draw on when faced with situations where I had to share ‘three things’ about myself, often in a new class at church and school at the start of every year. At various points, my responses have included: the orange, mangoes, custard apples, and, for added flourish, the durian, which was especially enjoyable for the horrified reactions it elicited from non-durian lovers. I could have said ‘a dead mouse’ and it would have been the same thing.
Despite these strategically chosen replies to an over-used introduction, I’ve never had a strong affinity for any fruit in particular. Perhaps I was spoilt by the variety of fruit choices in Singapore all year round, immune from the seasonality of raspberries, strawberries and apples, that I took them all for granted and found them ‘boring’.
Since I meeting my in-laws five years ago, however, there has been one fruit that has managed to keep its hold on my heart: Figs. Black Mission Figs, if you want to be specific. Plucked fresh from the tree, rinsed and eagerly bitten into, finished in three quick bites (sometimes two), a short pause, and the cycle repeats.
There were other garden harvests on the day of my fig encounter, all artfully arranged in the fruit bowl waiting to be eaten: cherries, apricots and strawberries for instance. But I had blinders on; it was the figs I was after. I was addicted to its intense, jammy sweetness, the texture of its soft tender flesh spiked with tightly-packed seeds, all conspiring to orchestrate a whole new symphony of flavors in the mouth. I had never tasted anything quite like it, and although I wouldn’t qualify the experience as ‘epiphanic’, it was pretty close. I could have lived off the tree’s entire harvest for the rest of the season, if not for the fact that we were only visiting for two weeks.
Despite an absence of figs in Singapore, my fig experience stayed with me long after summer ended. When M made another trip to France in the summer, I knew what I had to do. I ‘ordered’ a big tub of fresh figs from the tree, and set to work researching a host of recipes to showcase this delicious fruit.
Melissa’s recipe caught my eye for its novel combination of figs with goat cheese (goat cheese?) in a ‘clafoutis’ (clare-foo-tee). Although seriously averse to the supposed joys and delights of cheese in general, I decided to give this recipe a go, seeing as how it captured the fruit in its purest form, instead of turning it into mush as I would’ve done in a jam. It turned out to be an excellent combination (whoever thought that figs and goat cheese could taste so good?), with the tangy cheese offsetting the combined richness of the figs and custard. Each bite was so delicious and effective in fixing my fig craving, but, like a tease, left me contemplating about second helpings.