Fig picking with Zio Tony

2 Mar

Not a lot excites my Zio Tony. In fact, as far as I can tell, there are only two things. Making money – which he is very good at – and figs – which he picks from my nonna’s backyard tree with the joy of a peasant who’s just won the lottery. Well, the fig lottery anyway.

My Zio Tony

My job, in all of this, is to hold the ladder steady and put the figs in the bucket. It’s kind of boring, to be honest, and the stupid mosquitoes always treat my legs as an all-you-can-eat buffet, but it does allow me to watch Zio work his way around the fig tree, where I routinely witness a strange but charming transformation. The wheeling, dealing businessman disappears. He is replaced by a giddy farm boy whose level of excitement is directly related to the beauty, and more importantly, ripeness of each fig.

Zio Tony on top of the shed

Zio Tony up the ladder in the fig tree

Uncle Tony in the middle of the fig tree

Handing down figs

It starts calmly enough.

“Ahh, look at this one Tania, this one’s beautiful,” he says as he passes the fig down to me.

“But this one! This one is even better! You have to eat this one now Tania, eat it now!”

“Ohhh, this one’s just sugar! Look! It’s dripping sugar! Eat it now, it won’t be good later Tania, eat it now.”

The more excited he gets, the less English and the more Sicilian dialect falls from his mouth. It translates to the following, more or less:

“Tania, Tania, Tania this is the best fig ever to grace the earth in the history of the world, eat it now, it can’t wait. EAT! EAT!”

Which can’t be true, because a few seconds later, a fig even better than that one miraculously appears. I eat that too because, if someone tells me to eat, I do. Plus I quite like figs. And saying no to  Zio Tony is never a good idea.

Not surprisingly by the end of the 20 minutes I have scarfed down all kinds of figs – from big, fat so-ripe-they’re splitting figs to tiny ones that you can drop into your mouth like a lolly – and now there’s two new big buckets to get through as well…

Not that Zio has come down from the fig tree yet. He is marking out which figs to get next time.

“See this one? It’s yours! On Sunday, it will be perfect! If those bloody birds don’t get there first…”

Fig in the tree


Figs in hand

The fig tree


2 Responses to “Fig picking with Zio Tony”

  1. The Food Anthropologist March 2, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

    You’ve struck gold there girl. A fig tree would be the slow, sweet death of me.

    • lamingtonsandlasagna March 2, 2012 at 5:07 pm #

      i eat so many i lose count – it’s obscene – but they are sooooo good esp straight off the tree

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