True confessions time. I am a worrier. Can an optimist also be a serial worrier? I know deep down that there is very little that I am truly in control of. When I really want someone or some circumstance beyond my control to change, my mantra is “It is what it is.” The late dearest Helen Philpott taught me that one. However, that doesn’t always head the worry off at the pass. I know that I have an overactive imagination. I have been told that once or twice (or fifty times). I think that imagination fuels the worry.
What do I worry about? Let’s see. My family, needless to say. And my close friends. Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night or the wee hours of the morning with a case of the “What if’s?” What if that siren I hear is my son in a car accident? What if that voice message Mama Mildred left me (“It’s your mother. Call me when you get a chance.”) means that she has been to the doctor and got bad news? What if that text I got saying “We need to talk” means that the mammogram showed a lump? What if Miss K is exposed to measles before she has had her vaccination? Does anyone else out there suffer from “Worst Case Scenario” or is it just me?
I also worry about money or anything that might happen out of the blue to blow our monthly budget. The Ex-Ex talks me down. He is an excellent money manager. Me, not so much in the past, but I have greatly improved. My car makes a funny noise? Oh no. It must be the engine getting ready to die. The ice-maker (first world problem, I know) on the refrigerator is leaking? I guess the whole thing is getting ready to breathe its last cold breath. I grew up without much money, started working at age 14, put myself through college, paid for several months spent in France after my sophomore year at Appalachian State University, and bought my own first car, a used blue Datsun B-210. My first yearly salary (paid over 10 months, leaving out July and August completely) was, pre-taxes, $9500 in 1980. Summer jobs, babysitting, and tutoring helped make ends meet for several years. I will sometimes lie in bed at night doing math in my head. Crazy? Yes or no?
But… lest you think I am crazy or Henny Penny (aka Chicken Little aka Chicken Licken, one of Miss K’s favorite books at the moment-it has flaps!), I assure you I am not. When the worry threatens to overtake me, I take deep breaths (thank you meditation sessions), I recite The Lord’s Prayer (I have my good Protestant upbringing to thank for that) or I count off random numbers in my head (thanks to the BFF for that trick). If I can’t fall back asleep, I always have a good novel on my bedside table to calm me down. (I just finished Paris by the Book by Liam Callahan and now I am into Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography.) And if it ever gets too overwhelming, I know an excellent therapist who can give me more strategies. There is no shame in asking for help, mes amis. It is what it is. Right, Helen?
Today’s deliciousness and new recipe was brought about by a very dear friend, Mme M, who has a fig tree in her yard. She picks them for me (“I’ll keep fighting the avians and rodents for you, TE…”) and I love them. I have another confession, though. The first fresh fig I ever tasted was in Provence only about 11-12 years ago while I was there taking a cooking course from Chef Érick (where I later became the Assistante Américaine during my 2008 sabbatical). I am not sure what I thought Fig Newtons were made of.
Fresh Fig Bread
adapted from The Spruce Eats
makes 2 loaves
- 3 eggs
- 2 cups sugar (I used 1 scant cup of white granulated and 1 scant cup of Turbinado)
- 2 cups ripe figs (mashed or cut up or a combination of both)
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- Splash of brandy or cognac (optional)
- Turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)
- Heat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour two 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans (or three small loaf pans).
- In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the eggs. Add the sugar and beat well.
- With the mixer on low speed, add figs and vegetable oil. Add cognac, if using.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
- Add the flour mixture to the fig mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, ending with the flour. Beat just until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- Fold in nuts.
- Pour into pans. Sprinkle with Turbinado sugar, if using.
- Bake in preheated oven for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Bon appétit, tout le monde! I will try to worry less if you will. Practicing gratitude also helps. I am grateful that I can bake for my friends and family to show them how much I love them. I am also grateful that I have wonderful family members and friends to worry about. I am blessed beyond words.