Italian Dessert Week – Fig Failure

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01 Oct Italian Dessert Week – Fig Failure

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Photo © gardenghelle, published under a Creative Commons License.

When I was in Italy, the language barrier was more an invisible fence than an insurmountable stone wall. With a few stock phrases, a smattering of French, and emphatic hand gestures, I’d run around all day exploring without a care. But when I least expected it, I’d get zapped.

Like the time I ordered pumpkin gnocchi. I love gnocchi. I like pumpkin. Sure, I figured it would actually be some sort of squash, but I could handle that. Then a plate brimming with bright pink pasta arrived. Although the server insisted it was pumpkin, the colour and taste proved the vegetable in question was, in fact, beets. And faithful readers know how I feel about bloody beets.

Then there was the time I got brave and ordered “dove” in a high-end restaurant, assuming it was a mistranslation of pheasant or quail. Nope. I’m pretty sure the fowl I choked down was a pigeon shot from one of the statues that afternoon.

So, in a certain way my recent attempt at fig gelato is a fitting tribute to the culinary confusion I occasionally encountered. I knew all the right words — figs, mascarpone, honey — but something got lost in translation.

I studied various recipes from trusted sources, bought the last of the season’s fresh figs and rushed home to make the gelato of my dreams. There were barely enough figs to make a whole batch so I exercised extreme discipline and didn’t take so much as a nibble. But when I served the dessert — to out of town company no less — there was uncharacteristic silence.

The figs must have been slightly off because the gelato had an unpleasant, musky undertone. The seeds made the ice cream gritty and instead of a providing a silky smooth texture, the mascarpone was more like chalk. Could fermenting figs have curdled the dairy?

And the colour wasn’t right. Every triumphant photo in the recipe books showed little balls of impossibly rich but subtle purple. Mine landed part way between insipid taupe and off-putting puce.

Even my motto, “When in doubt add booze” failed to salvage the dish. We tried drizzling scoops with apple brandy, framboise and port. No one agreed on the best topping but everyone agreed I should toss the dessert.

It was worse than the beet gnocchi, which at least looked appealing.

So, no recipe today.

Be grateful.

Instead, here’s a picture of how gelato should be eaten. Italian style.

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No Comments
  • Lisa magicsprinkles
    Posted at 09:29h, 01 October Reply

    “When in doubt add booze”. I love it. Great words to live by. Sorry about the frigs. Oh, I meant figs :)

  • Lisa magicsprinkles
    Posted at 09:29h, 01 October Reply

    “When in doubt add booze”. I love it. Great words to live by. Sorry about the frigs. Oh, I meant figs :)

  • Dana McCauley
    Posted at 11:11h, 01 October Reply

    Sorry your gelato was a bust.

    FYI: here you’ll find that squab is often the name used on menus for pigeon or dove. It is usually a darker, gamier meat than pheasant. It’s closer in texture and colour to duck than to quail or pheasant which are usually lighter coloured meats.

  • Dana McCauley
    Posted at 11:11h, 01 October Reply

    Sorry your gelato was a bust.

    FYI: here you’ll find that squab is often the name used on menus for pigeon or dove. It is usually a darker, gamier meat than pheasant. It’s closer in texture and colour to duck than to quail or pheasant which are usually lighter coloured meats.

  • Cheryl
    Posted at 11:46h, 01 October Reply

    Well, if it makes you feel any better (and it should):

    1) I made fig and strawberry ice cream 3 weeks ago and it was awful. Hence, I never blogged about it either. Where’s David Lebovitz when you need him?

    2) When my husband and I were in Italy in 1994 the first thing we ordered was pepperoni pizza. Much to Colin’s horror, the beautiful pizza arrived smothered with actual peppers, which my husband hates. You should have seen the look on his face, poor guy. He was hungry, too.

  • Cheryl
    Posted at 11:46h, 01 October Reply

    Well, if it makes you feel any better (and it should):

    1) I made fig and strawberry ice cream 3 weeks ago and it was awful. Hence, I never blogged about it either. Where’s David Lebovitz when you need him?

    2) When my husband and I were in Italy in 1994 the first thing we ordered was pepperoni pizza. Much to Colin’s horror, the beautiful pizza arrived smothered with actual peppers, which my husband hates. You should have seen the look on his face, poor guy. He was hungry, too.

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 12:17h, 01 October Reply

    Lisa, I nearly titled the post “friggin’ figs” but my mother thinks that’s a swear word.

    Dana, that bird was gamey as all get out. I’ll avoid squab should I come across it on the menu.

    Cheryl, David is in Paris worrying about his socks. He most likely wouldn’t care a fig about my ice cream failure. Pun intended. I believe it’s okay to use word play and exclamation marks to heal a wounded ego. Sorry you wasted good ingredients, but thanks for sharing your pain.

    As for Colin’s pepper upset? This veggie goes by so many names it’s easy to get confused. The Aussies call them capsicum.

  • Christie's Corner
    Posted at 12:17h, 01 October Reply

    Lisa, I nearly titled the post “friggin’ figs” but my mother thinks that’s a swear word.

    Dana, that bird was gamey as all get out. I’ll avoid squab should I come across it on the menu.

    Cheryl, David is in Paris worrying about his socks. He most likely wouldn’t care a fig about my ice cream failure. Pun intended. I believe it’s okay to use word play and exclamation marks to heal a wounded ego. Sorry you wasted good ingredients, but thanks for sharing your pain.

    As for Colin’s pepper upset? This veggie goes by so many names it’s easy to get confused. The Aussies call them capsicum.

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