And so with this first day of August we welcome Lammas, the old festival of the first harvest. Summer’s bounty is ripening all around us, and even here in Florida, where we grow things at a schedule mostly topsy-turvy from the rest of the country (our vegetable growing season begins next month, in September) there are usually figs ripening on the trees about now. When I was much younger than I am now, one of our neighbors had a fig tree. They also happened to be snowbirds: they spent the winters in Lighthouse Point, where we lived year round, but they went to New York for the summers. Which meant their figs would be left for the birds if we didn’t gather them ourselves, and so we ate many figs in Augusts gone by.
Now we get them at the market, and that’s good, too. I love them quartered or halved and drizzled with honey, a taste the very essence of late summer. We got our first ones just this week, and so it seemed right that our cover star for your Convivio Book of Days calendar for August should be that humble and delicious fig. These are Brown Turkey figs, though I am waiting patiently for my favorites, the white varieties: Kadota and Calimyrna. Perhaps this year I’ll finally poach fresh figs in wine, one of the recipes I’ve been pondering for many summers now.
As for the calendar, it is printable on standard US Letter size paper, and is a nice companion to the blog. If all goes well, I will write in the blog about most of these August red letter days. But my goal this month is also to complete the proposal for what I hope will be the “real book” version of the Convivio Book of Days. A blog is good, but I am an ink-and-paper person, a man who loves books. I realized that a few weeks back when I found an old 19th century book I had remembered reading years ago: Observations on Popular Antiquities by John Brand. I found it in the university library, and I checked it out. It was the first library book I’ve checked out in a long while, and it felt good to do so. The librarian handed me the book and told me when it was due, and I left with this wonderful gift and got some lunch and sat to eat and opened my book and traveled to 19th century England.
The figs drizzled in honey and the old book borrowed from a library both called to mind for me the words that Richard Wilbur used to title a poem: “Love calls us to the things of this world.” As summer begins its certain transition to autumn this Lammastide, this is what I think of. I wish you these good things, too, and everything else that means much to you this late summertime.