We once had a kind neighbor who planted a fig tree on the side of their house. They were great cooks. They would share homemade pita bread, and gave Dad a trunk of lobsters when they returned from a trip to Maine. When we first moved into our house, they shared tips on landscaping our front yard. After-school, my sister and I would accidentally leave our house keys at home, and we would stay at their house until our parent came home. The smell of their evening dinner was enticing.
They were generous. And, they broke our hearts when they moved away without telling anyone where they were going. No one had in the neighborhood had any problems or disagreements with them. We woke up one morning to discover they had disappeared. All that was left was their fig tree and beautiful yard.
Another neighbor moved in and chopped down the tree. We knew in our hearts they were wrong, but it’s their property. It was time to make new memories with them. However, they kept to themselves, and we respected their space. When they asked for help, my parents were more than happy to provide them with advice. Over the years, we watched their son grow up and today Dad watches their dog when they go away on vacation.
My sister and I never went to our former neighbor’s house to pick figs for our own pleasure, because we didn’t like them. Figs are an acquired taste for me, and I love them today to the point of addiction. They’re drizzled with honey, smeared with blue cheese and/or wrapped in prosciutto.
When deciding to bake them, I wanted to avoid the fig-newton cookie style—a cookie made wrong in the United States, but they’re made better around the world. Not wanting a savory dish or a dessert, a cornmeal muffin was perfect with fig honey jam swirled in. A few toasted walnuts are thrown in for a healthy crunch.
If I wanted, I easily could ask my parents for our former neighbor’s names and say hello. I would love to learn how they made their homemade pita bread, and the secret to their tomato sauces that my sister and I would smell as we waited for our parents to come home. And, share with them this Honey Fig Cornmeal Muffin recipe over coffee. In this day of internet and information being accessible, they can easily be found. However, we respect their space and remember them well.