figs and almonds

If they’re good enough for the gods…

Italian Food and Flavours

Autumn fruits and religion seem to go hand in hand through myth and legend.

According to mythology the fig tree was created by Gaia the Mother Earth, to hide her son Syceus who was a giant fleeing from the wrath of Zeus. Perhaps that explains why each year I am faced with pruning back a gigantic amount of new wood growth on my trees!

Adam and Eve supposedly covered their nakedness using fig leaves but I bet they regretted that move as fig leaf sap is notorious for causing terrible blisters when combined with sunlight!

In Greek and Roman mythology Dionysus (Bacchus to the Romans), God of wine and fertility, and Priapus, a Satyr who symbolized sexual desire are both connected with the fig which probably goes some way to explain it’s less than savoury use in the local dialect!

Even the Buddha has a connection with the fig as apparently he achieved enlightenment one day in 528 BC while sitting under a Bo tree. The Bo is a kind of fig.

Almonds also have a special place in legend and folklore and are given, strictly  in odd numbers, as tokens of hope and good fortune in religious ceremonies around the world.

The Romans showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm, sugared almonds are still presented to wedding guests today in Italy and elsewhere.

According to the Bible the almond tree is a symbol of divine approval. At Christmas time in Sweden they eat a cinnamon-flavoured rice-pudding with an almond hidden inside. The lucky finder gets good luck for the year, always assuming they didn’t choke on it first!

Here in Italy at Christmas time the tradition is to give ‘Torrone’ as a gift. Torrone is a type of confectionary, typically made from honey, sugar and egg-white and toasted almonds. It’s chewy, delicious, bringing good luck to all who eat it and I’m fairly certain that it goes some way to pay for Dentists’ skiing holidays in January…

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