12 Feb 2008

Why figs and lavender?

I chose the name for this blog, based purely on two of my favourite things. That and I thought it sounded rather lovely.

Both used widely in cooking, these natural ingredients are versatile, scented, seasonal and pure, words that show a hint of what inspires me, and signify principles that are important in my food world.

Lavender, from the mint family is commonly used as an herb in Provencal cooking. The instantly recognisable fragrance transports me back to being just 4 years old at the end of one of those glorious English summers we used to have, collecting the dried lavender with my mother from the garden to put into bags to scent our knicker drawers.

More recently Lavender is something that I associate with my first foray into gardening, digging deep into my gene pool to find those green fingers my mother has. It was the first plant that I managed not to kill – believe me; I managed to kill spider plants at university!

Figs, obviously not being indigenous to the British Isles have more exotic associations for me. Visiting my partners’ infamous grandmother in the remote idyll of Umbria in Italy I had a true food moment. Not normally one for such sickly romantic and evocative tales, this experience quickly, albeit surprisingly became one of these times for me. I will share it with you...

In the late afternoon sun, after a long journey from London, we wandered round the gardens that surround the house called Labriana breathing in the clean air and feeling the sun on our smiling faces. Guiding us round the hilly grounds pointing out the heavily pruned olive trees that were expertly hacked by her neighbour, our host stopped at one of the fig trees picking a soft, perfectly ripe fruit and tearing it open saying “eat as many of these as you want – or the birds will have them”.

And boy did I eat fresh figs. We even had a tree outside the patio doors of our bedroom, and happily sneaked a few off the tree before breakfast.

Luckily for me, I had never eaten fresh figs before, and what a wonderful introduction. Unfortunately, nothing ever lives up to those first, juicy pink bites, warm from the morning’s sun. So, I have discovered many other fig incarnations such as dried whole figs, ready to eat figs, fig jam, partly because they are a good source of calcium – something I need having coeliac disease. Thankfully, their intense taste when dried also takes me straight back to the late summer pre-breakfast treat.

So this is Figs and Lavender. This is a little piece of me and my food world. Over the next few posts, I plan to share with the world my plan for things I want to write about here, and hopefully there will be something for you to read, learn and inspire you. Just like my figs and lavender do.

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