We had a choice of two holidays to celebrate today. International Hot & Spicy Food Day seemed a bit generic, though I did eat a handful of Spicy Cajun Peanuts this morning (and boy, could I feel the burn). But we settled officially on National Fig Newton Day. It’s been years since I’ve eaten a Fig Newton, and I was curious about the history behind this sorta-healthy-at-least-compared-to-other-cookies cookie.
In the 1800s, doctors believed that most illnesses were the result of digestive problems. Since Tums had yet to be invented, their recommendation was a diet rich in biscuits and fruit.Taking inspiration from this idea, a cookie maker in Ohio named Charles Roser invented a fig-stuffed cookie, killing two birds with one stone. Proverbially speaking, of course. It’s unclear why he chose figs, a fruit native to the Middle East that dates back to ancient times. Yes, the berries are edible and tasty, and the leaves make great genitalia covers. But you’d think he might have gone with something more common, like apples or strawberries. Nevertheless, Roser’s cookie was a hit, and he sold the recipe to the Kennedy Biscuit Company in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They named all their products after surrounding towns – there was a Harvard, a Shrewsbury, and a Beacon Hill – and the fig cookie became the Newton. Inventor James Henry Mitchell developed a machine that could produce an endless length of filled cookies, and in 1891 the Newton was mass-produced. In 1898 Kennedy Biscuits merged with a bunch of other bakeries to form the NAtional BIScuit COmpany, later shortened to – that’s right, boys and girls – NABISCO. Incidentally, the original F.A. Kennedy Steam Bakery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and turned into high-priced lofts. Call your realtor if you’re in the Boston area and looking for a new home with a historic background. But you’d better be rich. A 592-square foot studio apartment at the Kennedy Biscuit Lofts (real name) rents for $2684-$4105. Per month. Do you know how many Fig Newtons you could buy with that money?!
Newtons were renamed Fig Newtons, and then Nabisco began putting different fillings inside the biscuit. Flavors like strawberry, raspberry, and snozzberry. Wait, no – that was the Oompa-Loompas. Little-known fact: Fig Newtons are Mickey Mouse’s favorite cookie. Better-known fact: Mickey Mouse is a cartoon rodent, so why does that even matter? Early TV commercials featured a cowboy singing, “Yer darn tootin’, I like Fig Newtons.” The most recent advertising slogan is, “The fruit that thinks it’s a cookie.”
Yawn. Bring back the singing cowboy.
For this challenge, I had my eye set on Apricot & Mango Newtons, but as delicious as these sound, they are missing the essential ingredient of figs. So, the original flavor it was!
And you know what? They were tasty. Damn tasty. New fruit flavors aside, I’m glad we stuck with the original fig version!
- National Fig Newton day (eatocracy.cnn.com)