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A figgy tale & food forays

From the founding of Ancient Rome to the beginning of Buddhism, the fig has played a starring role in some of history’s most stirring stories. Legend has it that history’s most iconic sex symbol Cleopatra, preferred figs over any other fruit. The fabled founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, were found as infants under a fig tree, where they were being nursed by a she-wolf. The Romans also associated the fig tree with Rumina, patron goddess of breastfeeding mothers, due to its milky sap. Whilst I’m certainly no Cleopatra, Romulus, or Remus, and I feel confident my mother was no she-wolf or Rumina, rumor has it that I came into the world under the cavernous branches of a giant fig tree. Yes that’s right, the bed where I was born on the verandah of a small country town hospital was shaded by this ancient tree. This might explain why I adore figs, and also why when I spotted late summer figs recently at the Carriageworks fresh produce markets, my eyes lit up with anticipation, and my mouth broke into a smile. I started to salivate at the thought of ingesting the small fleshy pink threads, the inverted flowers contained within the silky aubergine and pale green skins. This was my idea of food heaven and I could not resist. I left with a tray carefully cradled on the front of my arm and I was happy. As I returned to my toy size Italian car I was thinking of all the ways I could consume them, first and foremost a couple from the box squished straight into my mouth. If any made it home I might stuff them with bitey Gorgonzola drizzled with honey or wrap them in prosciutto. The sweetness of the figs marries so beautifully with the saltiness of the cheese or prosciutto, a combination that’s so sinful I almost feel as tempestuous as Eve in the biblical garden reaching for the forbidden fruit. I might even conjure up the sexiness of Cleopatra if left to consume them all on my own. Just don’t tell that to my significant other!

In season gourmet figs from Figlicious at Carriageworks fresh produce markets

Do you feel more energetic and positive when the sun comes out and the skies are clear and blue? Does the weather make a difference to your mood and your health? We have had a particularly gloomy summer. In the last couple of days here in Sydney we have been experiencing up to four seasons in one day. It has been found that there is a strong link between sunshine and a person's mood and feelings of well-being, which is why when we finally had a break in the clouds I headed off for a walk at nearby Balmoral and Edward’s beaches. It felt like a change of seasons and it was the novelty of the sunshine that brought me outdoors. As I walked, I slowed down to take in all that was around me, the chatter of children as they scooted passed, the vibrant conversations over good food at The Boathouse, the thrills and spills as bodies lept from the jetty and splashed into the water, the playfulness of seagulls as they skipped away from the gentle waves meeting the sand, the sun kissed bodies precariously positioned under the protection of beach cabanas, a small squad of swimmers bobbing up and down in the gentle swell of the sea, kite surfers battling the waves against strong winds and the enthusiasm of young nippers setting off to the shrill of a whistle. There was a certain exuberance and positive energy in the air that day, and like me, the feelings of happiness from being out in the new sun's rays were palpable across the shoreline. As I walked precariously over the art-like formations on the rocks that had been eroded over time by the push and the pull of the waves, and looked out through the heads to the horizon, I felt happy. The sunshine after the rain had lifted my spirits and all felt well in the world again.

Looking out to the heads from Edwards Beach

Later in the week the weather turned soggy again and I took the opportunity this time, not to bask in the warmth of the sun’s rays but to walk meditatively around the shores of Sydney Harbour whilst the rain drifted down softly around me. Whilst we all like to apricate in the warm sunshine there is a feeling equally as wonderful when walking in the rain. Starting at the gates of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Macquarie Street, I meandered along the winding pathways passing animal sculptures made from plants, meadow flower gardens that were starting to fade, lush green lawns under evergreen trees, until I reached the sandstone wall separating the land from the sea. Peering through my clear, but wet plastic umbrella I observed the goings on of the harbour. It was busy with ferry boats darting about in every direction and was a stark contrast to the desolate foreshore. In the distance I could see the grand historic home where the Prime Minister and his family resided when they stayed in Sydney. It was perched high on the headland across the waters, alongside rows of red brick flats that cradled the edge of the shoreline around Kirribilli. As I turned the corner,l the sails of the majestic Opera House came into view, but what surprised me most was the absence of people. The steps were bare, something I had never witnessed before and it had little to do with the rain. Along the normally vibrant promenade leading from the Opera House to Circular Quay it felt like a ghost town. It was not only devoid of the usual throng of city workers and tourists, most of the shops were boarded up or empty with ‘for lease’ signs plastered onto grubby windows. Covid had taken its toll on the heart of a once vibrant world city and Sydney was but a shadow of what it used to be. Sydney was a city in transition. As I walked along past the ferry terminals at Circular Quay, the low fog formed a veil over the usually prominent Harbour Bridge. The only sound was that of the pitter patter of raindrops bouncing onto the pavement. There was not another person in sight until I reached the underside of the bridge where I spotted a few fishermen casting their lines into the harbour. I ventured further, following the winding path that hugged the water, passing the sandstone steps of Munn’s Slipway until I reached the towering Crown at Barangaroo. The skyscrapers nestled up together, but the laneways between them were all but deserted and frighteningly quiet. I wondered what would become of them in the future if people no longer chose to venture into the city for work or recreation. How was Sydney going to get its mojo back? By now my feet were squelching in my soggy sandshoes and it was time to head back to Wynyard for the train ride home. I shared the platform with just one other traveller….strange times indeed. Like an abrupt slap in the face, it was a stark reminder of the cost of Covid.

Sydney Harbour Bridge viewed from a desolate Circular Quay

On the short train ride home I listened to a conversation with David Beckham on the River Cafe Table 4 podcast. David Beckham loves trying new foods and also loves to cook, especially for his family whose favourite cuisine is Italian. He has taken many Italian cooking classes when he was living in Milan and one of the dishes he loves to cook is ragu with handmade pasta. Disappointingly for him, his wife Victoria has a penchant for only one meal, fish and steamed vegetables which she has eaten every day for the last twenty five years. Only once has he ever seen her have anything else, an aberration when she was pregnant with their daughter Harper. Of all the wonderful food that he has tried across many continents he confessed to liking a baked bean toastie and salt and vinegar Discos above all others.

Some recipes I have saved from the Interweb this week include

Indian Style Chicken Soup @cupcakeree

Tofu Larb @cookrepublic

Moroccan Spiced Fruit Tea Loaf @kitchen_to_table

Grandma’s Soy Sauce Braised Pork Belly @sbsfood

Argentinian Tiramisu @sbsfood

Sixty Second Gut Healthy Bread in a Mug @sarah_di_lorenzo

Custard Yoghurt Toast @lisahculley

Mango Passionfruit Gummies @culturedbaby

Fragrant Saffron Rice @brownpapernutrition

Plum Galette @caremepastry

Roast Pumpkin & Rosemary Farinata @jescoxnutritionist

Broth Peach Raspberry Jellies @undividedfoodco

And this artistic Instagram account @goodfoodcrapdrawing

I have just finished watching the second season of the black comedy Search Party on Stan. The characters are weird but hilarious in their eccentricity.

And this movie, Moonlight, is a story about a black African American boy growing up in Miami and the challenges he faces as he grapples with his identity and sexuality.

And I’m still crushing on figs…..

Fig, rose custard pastry swirls @flourshopau

Until next time may your days be both serendipitous and enjoyable (and may the rain stop falling)!!


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