RiverHead

Sunday, August 11, 2013

RECIPE: Figs for now, for later, for lovers....


There is a man who lives around an hour from me due north.

He grows figs under glass. Comes from the eastern part of the state and before that the southern part of Italy.  He has the presence of a Mountain goat, more like an animal than a person, can grow just about anything….

Milo, first and last name, brought with him some culture -- how to stucco a barn or coax figs from New England soil.  I say, "hey, what kind of figs?" or "where are the seeds from?" and he says, "Maybe it was there in Italy, from my dad, or maybe my brother gave them to me to grow for my dad.....not sure." 

He is around 40 maybe 60. He has eyes the color of bottled mineral water and a long ponytail down his back. He wears old sweat pants and sleeps in a crows nest on the top of his house. He goes to sleep with the sun and rises with the sun. Milo's body is slight, brown and pliant like a fig when it falls, ripe to the ground.  

When I went to meet with him, it was to buy some figs and because I just stood there staring, he gave me a tour of his place.  We started with some news clippings about him and he served me a little a snack at the kitchen table of his oregano and tomatoes. When I finished eating, very good, astoundingly good oregano, he asked, "Back hurt? Sittin on the computer?" Hell yes. He pulled out a hassock and said to lie on my back and elevate my legs while he went off to do some errands. 

Milo's house is in the middle of town and can be entered through a gate, an elaborate creation of color and iconography. The primary hues of tie dyed t-shirts adorn the outer perimeter of his estate, a tangle of hearts and peace signs carved into the stone walls.

A tour of his place revealed spring-fed pool dug out of stone and heated with wood. His walls, the stucco barn walls are soft curves, "all by hand" he says, petting the walls. "No power tools." And the work, smooth stone inlaid with glass, mica and shells, is intricate, like cave paintings. "This one," pointing to a mandala on the wall of the entryway of the house, "is made from a buncha glass given to me by some guy who thought I would like it....I don't know.”   We leave the explosion of dinnerware. 

Next we climb hand hewn stairs toward a trapeze leading to the cows nest where our interview will take place. He takes a step up the ladder, grabs a nearby trapeze and hoists himself feet first, into the crows nest. He offers the trapeze to me.

"Are you sure you want me up here?" I say.

He smiles and shakes his head imperceptibly. An unnecessary question perhaps.  I ask him if he drank coffee. He laughed. Wine? No, at night he hikes and gets as close to where the sun is setting as possible. He discusses gravity and western medicine. “The best way to live life is to be like a plant-- just keep growing up ward!" He says and straightens his spine.

"Gravity is always trying to pull you down....like your mother," he said, pulling at my hand down to the earth. How does he know about her?  He looks into my eyes and wraps his hands around my rib cage, hoisting it like a small calf, upward.  "Like your mother." He takes a look at my soul and shrugs. 

Glassed in greenhouse where he grows the figs. They’re not ready to eat yet. He splits one open anyway with a knife, cupping it in his hand. I swoon.

FIG JAM FOR LOVERS AND FOR LATER

about 24 figs or 2 egg carton's worth
heat
water
small jar, about 2 ounces

Peel and cook down figs over medium heat until they are reduced by about 20%. This will remove moisture and concentrate the fruit. Spoon into clean  jars and process in canning bath for 15-20 minutes. Store in cool place. When opened, keep refrigerated. For more information on canning, go to www.balljar.com.



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