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Maisuna and México

TIM Baked Figs 5

TIM Baked Figs

By Tim Hazell

Arab-American writer Elmaz Abinader speaks of the exciting time for authors that exists in Latin America. The lyrical verse of the Moors once found its way from the camel trains of the Arab Empire to Spain, adding a touch of sensual elegance to medieval literature. Spanish galleons carried this warm breeze from Africa to the tropic sands of the New World. Here is a tantalizing sample:

Song of Maisuna

“The russet suit of camel’s hair, with spirits light, and eye serene, is dearer to my bosom far than all the trappings of a queen. The humble tent and murmuring breeze that whistles thro’ its fluttering wall, my un-aspiring fancy please better than towers and splendid halls. The rustic youth unspoilt by art, son of my kindred, poor but free, will ever to Maisuna’s heart, be dearer pamper’d fool, than thee.”

Writers living in Latin America created bold experiments from multiracial roots. We can hear winds from the Oriental desert and African steppe in bold, contemporary love poetry by Jamie Sabines:

My heart embarks from my body to your body on its last voyage.

Offspring of light, ageless waters that in you, woman astray, are born.

Come to my thirst. Now! After everything. Before!

Come to my thirst long savored in mouths, scarce well-springs.

I love that rapt harp that lulls wild children in your womb.


The Spaniards brought Ficus Carica, known to us as the common fig, to México in 1520. Fig trees have been cultivated since ancient times. One of the first plants domesticated by humans, Ficus has thrived in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean climates for at least 9,000 years and grows wild in rocky regions up to an altitude of 1,700 meters. Its deep roots seek out water in aquifers and fissures in rocks, making the plant resistant to seasonal drought.

Common figs are popular with home gardeners and include Black Mission, Brunswick, and Celeste. The fruit is mentioned prominently in the Bible, and Sumerian stone tablets dating back to 2500 BC record their usage. Cooked figs were used as sweeteners in lieu of sugar in medieval cookery, a practice that still continues today in North Africa and the Middle East. Enjoy this simple, artful recipe that brings out the best of México’s luscious mission figs while they are in season!

Baked Figs


1 lb black mission figs

2 tbsp orange juice

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp chopped lemon peel

4–6 whole cloves

Rinse the figs and cut stems off the top of each. Cut the fruit in half with a sharp knife. Place the figs skin side down in a baking pan. Combine ingredients well and spoon over. Cover pan tightly with a lid or aluminum foil. Bake figs for 20 minutes in a 375F oven.

Reserve syrup after cooking and remove whole cloves. Spoon syrup over figs and garnish with pistachios, sliced almonds, or chopped walnuts and a slice of lemon peel. Delicious served warm or at room temperature.


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