Thursday, June 23, 2005

figs and lilliputian pears

Most of what we can get in Tunisia is basically the same as back home in BC. Which shouldn't really be that much of a surprise. After all, most of Tunisia is semi-arid, hot and all the food comes from the northern agricultural region. Again, it sounds quite a bit like back home.

There are a few little exceptions, however.

First, let it be known that the base food for all summer fare is Pasteque - Arabic for Watermelon. And for those of you who know me passably well, you know that I'm loving it. Watermelons that are huge, jusicy, sweet and sold from the expensive early season price of a dinar a kilo, to the later season price of 100 millimmes (roughly ten cents canadian) a kilo. Or just shy of five cents a pound. Nice. Very nice.

And then there's a new exotic that has to be described, but from whom the experience is so far different from anything back home that I can't possibly hope to convey it. In a word, figs. And there are a number of varieties from spikey wild ones to soft green ones (called white) none of which resemble the dried-up brown (albeit tasty) chewy things we're used to back home.

I'll describe the experience of one of the only ones that I've tasted.

It's a green fruit that varies in size from the fist of a three-year-old to that of an adult. The green skin is soft to touch and gives a little under pressure - wholly unlike that of an apple. They can be eaten pealed of not, but the process of peeling is interesting enough to me that I'll describe it as well. On one side, call it the top, of the fruit there is a slight bulbousness that gives way under the pressure of a finger to tear eversogently at the thin peel. It unwraps a soft, pulpy, white mound.

If you wanted to, you could certainly bite into the fruit at this point. Just bite and savour. But if your curiosity got the better of you, you might want to tear it in half - as I did the first time out. The inside is where the fruit is truly unique. It looks a little like a sea anemone that's retracted into itself. Hundreds of darkish tendrils creep towards the centre to form a pliant, sweet-smelling mass. To the unaccustomed eye it seems counter-intuitive to follow this gaze up with a bite but it's well worth the discomfit. Strange thouhg it may look, the fruit is tender, subtly flavoured and incredibly delicious.

This is an incredible fruit.

As for the lilliputian pears, these are sold early in the season and are something around the pear equivalent to a crabapple. The difference being that they actually taste good and like regular pears. Strange world indeed!

And with that my adieu for today and I hope to post again sooner than last time.