My mother and father argued about 50 per cent of the time. My mother was short tempered. Sometimes she had a trigger temper that might have been caused by PMS. My father was just a man and like all men, didn’t understand women. But when they weren’t arguing, and there was peace in the household, it was pretty nice. During those peaceful times they would play cards or checkers (see another blog) until my mother lost one too many games and everything went flying in the air. Another thing they enjoyed doing was making Italian fig cookies at Christmas.
Making Italian fig cookies from scratch was a lot of work. My mother could never do it alone. About two weeks before Christmas they would buy all the ingredients for the project. They got pounds of dried figs, which were pretty expensive. Lots of flour and Crisco was used to make the dough. The Crisco had to be melted and then carefully poured into the mound of flour. My mother added all the ingredients and then my father would work the dough with his big strong hands. The figs had to be boiled and put through a grinder to make them nice and soft for the cookies. My mother did all the preparation of the figs and them my father would grind them. To the ground up figs my mother would add orange zest and chocolate, sugar, and some other things. My father would mix it all together, then my mother would taste it to see if anything more needed to be added. When the figs were perfect, (and if my mother said they were, then they were) my father would begin rolling out the dough. My mother would add spoonfuls of the fig and my father would finish cutting the dough around the cookie, fold it and place it on the tray. They had a great little assembly line going, just the two of them. This project took all day, without exaggeration, because they made at least twenty pounds of cookies.
My mother gave a few away to close relatives, but we kept the lion’s share of them and they lasted a long time. Figs were something I would never normally eat, but my mother’s cookies were the best. One year, when I was pregnant, I don’t know how many of them I consumed because I never got full and they tasted especially delicious that year too.
Making Italian fig cookies from scratch was a great Christmas tradition in our family. It was nice to see my parents take a real break from arguing and watch them working together to make this holiday treat. You can get fig cookies already made at an Italian pastry store, but they really never come close to tasting as good as my mother and father made them. There always was so much less fig in the cookies and they were missing essential ingredients, but they were pretty expensive.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had a fig cookie, but I can still savor the taste, the smell and the warm memories of years gone by.