Monday, May 7, 2012

Fig Newton? Darn Tootin’

The Fig Newton, as we have known it through several generations, is no more. Oh, they still make the mushy pastry wrapped around a fig paste, but it now has a brand-new package and a simplified name.  Nabisco, the Kraft Foods division that makes the iconic cookie, thinks it will attract more (and younger) customers simply as a “Newton,” even though it still contains the same doughy covering and figgy goo.  If figs are not your thing, however, you can get a Strawberry Newton or a Raspberry Newton instead.

Fig Newtons have been around since 1891, when they were first manufactured by the Kennedy Biscuit Works in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and named, for some unexplained reason, in honor of the nearby town of Newton.  Perhaps “Fig Cambridge” didn’t roll trippingly off the tongue. 

In 1991 the 100th anniversary was observed with an 8-foot Newton and a performance by pop/country singer Juice Newton (undoubtedly a far better choice than Wayne would have been).

The Fig Newton may be confused with, because it is very similar to, the Fig Newman—an organic version of the same product manufactured by the company founded by actor Paul Newman.

Boston Magazine has come up with a list of other cookies named for Massachusetts venues, including Pepperidge Farms’ chunky chocolate “Nantucket”; the “Boston Cracker” (one that has been split and puffed), the “Cape Cod” oatmeal-raisin cookie, the “Beacon Hill” (a chocolate meringue cookie), and the ever popular “Toll House” cookie, invented by a cook using Nestlé chocolate in 1937 at the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts.

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou, which is a long way from Massachusetts, doesn’t give a fig about Newtons of any variety, including Sir Isaac.  He’d rather munch jelly rolls while strumming jazz tunes on his ukulele.  He writes as follows:

            What is it about a Fig Newton?
            It certainly isn’t its fizz.
            No, it’s duller than Vladimir Putin,
            Or an organic chemistry quiz.

            Compare one to an Oreo,
            And it tastes a bit like guano.
            It inspires no oratorio,
            Like a Pepperidge Farm Milano.
            Nutter Butter and Chips Ahoy,
            I cannot do without,
            Or Famous Amos, or Almond Joy,
            Or those treats from some little Girl Scout.

            Yet there’s something about a Fig Newton,
            But I can’t say e.g. or viz.
            Yes, there’s something, as sure as shootin’—
            But I haven’t a clue what it is.

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