December 6, 2023 | Rome, Italy

The fig monster

By |2018-03-21T20:03:11+01:00September 24th, 2016|"In Provincia"|
Best to stay away from Goggle when she's on a fig high.

oogle the Dog is on a sugar-free diet. She’s a fig addict and needs to detox. It happens every year. The minute our fig plants start yielding even vaguely edible fruit, Google is out stuffing herself silly. She doesn’t care that her stomach gets distended, looking something like a balloon.

After the binge, she pays the price, and so do we. She’s transformed from her usual loving self into a sulking, snarling creature. Every passing bird sends her into a rage. It’s worse for any poor dog that happens to be walked in our direction.

It’s a no-win situation. If we keep Google on the terrace away from her beloved figs, she gets deeply offended.

I don’t know if your dog has similar sensibilities, but Google is a complete prima donna. On day, in a huff, she even tried suicide by jumping from a 13-foot terrace.

After a few weeks of fig intoxication, she turns from being angry to sullenness and depression. She’s so pitiful you can hardly look at her. There’s not really much we can do. If we leave her alone in the house she’ll invariably find a way to get to the trees in search of more edibles — unless, that is, we lock her in, which we dislike doing.

It all happens in stages. A week or so after she’s devoured all the available figs she starts calming down. Soon enough we get back the sweet old Google we know. The bad moods vanish. She’s cheerful and ready to play. Simple treats keep her happy. Unless, that is, she’s forced into the company of other dogs. That huff isn’t fig-induced.

Watching Google’s fig moods sometimes makes me think human personality swings might be tied (even unconsciously) to sugar intake. Too much sugar and people get cranky, flying off the handle for seemingly no reason. It’s hard not to think that way with so much unnecessary hostility popping out of people every day, and for no good reason. Maybe they’re self-absorbed like Google and can’t stop bingeing. After all, sugar is everywhere. Maybe we need to put sugar addicts on leashes, parking them on the terrace until they calm down. Our view is lovely, after all.

The figs Google doesn’t get to I pick and preserve. In winter, we’ll share them with friends on special occasions. We make sure to keep the portions small. After all, we don’t want humans to start barking.

Figs preserved in spiced wine syrup


  • 1 kg (2 lbs) of fresh figs.

  • 300 ml (1 1/3 cup) of red wine.

  • 250 grams (1 cup) of sugar.

  • Zest of 1 lemon (set aside the juice).

  • 4 cloves.

  • 3 cardamom pods.

  • 1 stick of cinnamon.


— Place all the ingredients in a shallow, stainless steel pan and simmer for 2-to-3 hours.

— When the figs are tender, add the lemon juice and transfer into sterilized glass jars. Make sure to tightly seal the jars ..

Any shrewd or inquisitive dogs should be immediately banished from where you’re working. Humans can watch, so long as they stay away from the sugar.

About the Author:

Letizia Mattiacci wrote the "In Provincia" column from 2011 through 2019.