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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Biscuits - Fig Rolls

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas DECEMBER. 14, 2020

[130-365] 13th. December 2020- I think the Fig Roll has spread far and wide, although as far as I can find out, it was a popular British biscuit before British emigrants took it to the US and other countries, where it was first mass produced. Up until that time it was a biscuit popularly made in the home. More accurately described as sweet pastry with a fig jam inside, originally the biscuit was made by folding a sheet of pastry around the fig paste. Later the industrial process was invented whereby a machine could extrude a pastry tube while at the same time adding the filling inside. So an original fig roll would have had a join or a seam while today's version is seamless. So the ingenuity of the human race ultimately led to the seamless fig roll.

I've never liked them, for the primary reason that they contain figs, which is probably the best reason. Suffering for my art I felt I should at least sample one before writing them off. As you can see I have now done that so I can fairly write them off. One of the most disgusting things I have tasted. Sorry lovers of fig rolls but there are hardly any food stuffs I won't eat, but this is one. It used to be closely followed by avocados, but in recent years by adding copious amounts of garlic, chilli, spring onion and lime juice , all chopped into a salsa for dipping, I have had to reassess the avocado.

It all happened when I visited Chile a couple of years back when they had that brief window when there weren't riots and tear gas in the streets. I though Chile and Chileans wonderful and was even wandering around thinking this is somewhere I could happily live, until about six months after I got home and for some shocking reason they all started rioting and tear gassing each other.

Seriously though, I was genuinely upset and disturbed, that something I had witnessed so recently could be transformed from heaven to hell in such a short time frame. I really hope they manage to sort out their differences, it's a beautiful country with so much potential, and I would love to return one day to witness it at peace again.

But I digress, almost everything I had to eat in Chile had creamed avocado in it, with copious amounts of lime and garlic and chilli, and I realised what I had been missing all those years, when it was only ever presented to me cut in half with some prawns in mayonnaise dolloped in the little hole where the stone normally resides. I had always referred to it as green lard. Maybe I should be chopping up figs and adding copious amounts of chilli, garlic and lime to them? Maybe not.

Figs were highly traded and fought over during the development of the great trade routes during the 15th to 17th centuries. Christopher Columbus devoted a complete page to what a wonderful time it would be when he would be able to gorge himself on figs in the orient, while Marco Polo described women in association with the beauty of figs. It was also during this period that figs reached America, when the Spanish reached the island of Hispaniola in 1520.

Today Marco Polo would be thrown down the memory hole and unpersoned for saying something like that, in fact that may still happen, it's never too late. Just look what's happened to good old Abe Lincoln, one minute he was engineering the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves and barely one hundred and fifty years later he was a Nazi. Who knew you could become a Nazi while being dead.

The one attribute that did impress me about fig rolls was their ability to cosy up to each other even in the form of a vertical tower. They seem made for it, with their little concave bottoms and convex heads all with little interlocking ridges. I am willing to bet a pound that Ole Kirk Kristiansen was a fan of the fig roll and while stacking them up on his desk one day during his tea break, just like I have done, he came up with the idea for Lego. Of course it has developed a bit since then, you can get Mars Landers in Lego now, Mars Landers is the current CEO of Lego, and that's one of my better jokes. Try making a Mars Lander out of fig rolls, conversely try making a plate of fig rolls out of Lego.

The way they are cosied up makes me think of all those Social Distancing warnings we keep getting. Every programme on TV now has a caption on it, either one of the following will do. If it's a recent programme (there aren't many) the caption reads, "All government guidelines for Covid safety were followed in the making of this programme." If it's an old repeat the caption reads "This programme was filmed Pre-Covid". Do they really need to tell us this? Especially when the very next day the people in the programme are secretly filmed having a huge 50th birthday party with no Social Distancing, which is then leaked to the papers.

Do I need to be told that a 1934 black and white film with Leslie Howard playing the Scarlet Pimpernel, was filmed "Pre-Covid? Do they think if I see him disguised as an old hag rescuing Aristo's from the guillotine with no social distancing I am going to get a sudden urge to go out kissing strangers?

It's the latest refrain heard in Whitehall at the moment while Boris has scuttled off to Brussels, "They seek him here, they seek him there, those Frenchies seek him everywhere, is he in heaven is he in hell we need the playing field kept lev-el."

My only hope at the moment is that truck loads of figs are trapped somewhere in a tailback in France, unable to get across the channel, without any latter day Scarlet Pimpernel to rescue them.

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1 Comment

John Durham
John Durham
Jan 26, 2022

I do believe that the "Fig Newton", given it's proper name, was invented in 1924 by Billy Bob Guidry of Bayou Lafourche, LA. He got tired of having to go out and get a fresh, smashed fig for his buttermilk biscuit every morning and asked his wife, LaDonna, to do something about it. She threw him out of the house. To spite her, Billy Bob created the Fig Newton, naming it after the Methodist girl, with whom he lived in sin, whose name was Newton. Thus endeth the tale.

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