Here is an entry I never posted! A taste of summer now that Fall is here.
…After our NY friends left us at our camping grounds, the sun was also absent. Overcast and rainy days were the norm for the remainder of our trip. But we made the most of it! One drizzly morning (the day after it rained torrentially) we headed out for a drive. Runswick Bay was our destination.
Actually, we thought we were supposed to be camping in Runswick Bay the whole week – there is a caravan site there owned by the same company we used, but ours was in the Dales instead. The fact that they both had the same name had confused us. Runswick Bay is a tiny town on the coast, about half an hour from where we were camping. It’s magnificent in the summer and must be both lonely and treacherous in the winter months. Perched on a hill, the walkways are made of slippery stone steps. Cars don’t go through the little collection of house streets, it’s that small. Parking is mostly to one side of the village.
We walked down to the sea and then started back up again to explore the town. We were transfixed by the colors of the cottages – this one was particularly beautiful:
Each one has a gloriously perfect view of the sea. The tide was low and far out. If we’d have brought wellies with us, we’d have been exploring the rocks more, but as it was we kept to higher ground.
We felt like we kept discovering secret treasures ’round each corner we walked. A house just slightly further up the hill had a garden jam-packed with trees, bushes and flowers, the largest of which was a glorious fig-tree, huge-leaved and with pendulously ripe figs. I was transfixed.
Perhaps I am easily impressed by figs, but these delighted me. Also amazing was the fact that the birds hadn’t eaten them all! While I was standing, marveling at this riddle, a woman walked by, the owner of the house. We chatted. She told us that she lives in her house only for the summer and that there are but TWELVE year-round residents. I asked her about her tree and she said she didn’t eat the figs and we could pick them if we wanted. Incredulous, I asked if she was sure, and she immediately went and got us a bag from inside her house. Overwhelmed by both her generosity and that of the tree, we picked these beauties:
I’m trying to determine WHY figs excite me so. When I was younger, living on the eastern tip of Long Island, NY, I don’t think we ever had any fresh figs, but we did eat the dried ones that came in a circular “ring” of string, from Greece I think. The few times that I brought some in my lunch to school, it seemed my classmates found them too exotic and unfamiliar. No one else ate them. My family felt different from most families in terms of many of our food choices, especially regarding fruits, probably. Pomegranates were another – a girl briefly moved to my school from California in seventh or eighth grade, and she was the only person I’d ever seen eat a pomegranate in school. I felt bonded to her on that basis alone! I still remember her given name: Megan Morgan, even though I never again saw her after that year. Sorry for that tangent…
I don’t remember the first fresh fig I ate, but it must have been in Staten Island or Manhattan, where many more “non-Northeast” foods were available. My mother probably presented them the way she always served food: simply yet beautifully, somehow understatedly communicating appreciation and love. I paid attention to my mother’s recommendations and recognized them as always being of superior quality and generally adopted her preferences for my own. As for the fresh figs, I loved both the taste and texture – small green ones and small black ones are what I remember. And when I was thirteen, I went to France for the first time and my aunt’s house on L’Île d’Yeu had a fig tree. We got one fig off of it because it was too early to expect many. That one fruit was spectacular, and several of us shared tiny slices of it. How I wished we could stay ’til September and enjoy a bountiful supply, sigh…
And so, here we were standing in front of a prolifically productive tree. I’d NEVER seen figs this large. Nearly as long as my hand, and very darkly purple. Picking them was like winning the jackpot for me. We ate one right away, eyes widening in excitement, finished off a few more in the parking lot on our way out of the village, and the rest we savored more slowly back at the campsite over the next two days.
Delicious, truly. Fully and perfectly ripe. We devoured half of them far too quickly, yet also consciously relishing their flavor. They were so large that eating just one of them was nearly like a meal. Thank you, fig-tree owner! I shall forever-more hold magical memories of Runswick Bay.