As I bite into a dried fig I sit and wonder about the expression “not worth a fig” and wonder where it came from. In it’s dried form it is certainly underwhelming…chewy, slightly sweet, and gritty. But this is the mythical fruit of the tree of knowledge, or at least some question whether it was the juicy and delicious fig, and not the apple, that first tempted man in the garden of Eden. Wouldn’t Adam and Eve in their shame reach for the first leaves they could find to cover themselves? If this truly is the fruit chosen to represent the discovery of good and evil shouldn’t it be worth something?
The Ancient Egyptians buried figs with their kings and burned the trees of their enemies… Figs are sacred to my favorite of the Greek gods, Dionysus…and a whole host of things have happened under fig trees from the suckling of the founders of Rome to the creation of Buddhism. Figs are everywhere in history, literature and mythology. Why then do we use the mighty fig as the standard mass that we compare to worthlessness?
From what I can scrounge up it looks like the expression has it origin in Italy or Spain… In both languages the feminine form of the word fig(fico in Italian and higo in Spanish) is used as a crude word for the female genitalia. Much like our substitution of f-ing and freaking for everyone’s favorite F word… the Italians and Spanish changed a **** (insert favorite expletive for the female genitalia here) into a fig by merely substituting an a for an o.
So why did I choose to name my blog after such a crude phrase? To tell the truth I didn’t know about this particular meaning when I decided to name my blog “worth a fig“… In fact my husband described the expression as antiquated… but hey I like the name and I think it works well for a blog mostly about food and foodlore… and after all: What's in a name? That which we call a fig by any other name would taste as sweet.… oh wait… that didn’t exactly come out like I expected it to…but you get the point.