National Fig Newton Day

According to my mom, one of the first solid foods I loved was Fig Newtons. So today, I am dedicating this post to my favorite cookie bar. In fact, I had some for breakfast today. I like my Newtons cold (I keep them in the fridge), preferably with a glass of ice cold milk or a steaming cup of British Blend tea with a dash of creamer.

Image Courtesy of The New York Times

The cookie bars were the creation of Charles Roser, a Philadelphia baker. His recipe was later purchased by the Kennedy Biscuit Company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1891, James Henry Mitchell invented the machine that worked like a funnel within a funnel, which extruded the filling encased by the pastry dough into a long cookie that was then cut into smaller pieces. When the Kennedy Biscuit Company merged with the New York Biscuit Company, they became known as Nabisco and they trademarked the name Fig Newtons, after the nearby town of Newton, Massachusetts.

Image courtesy of Snackworks

Newtons are a trademark brand of Nabisco.  Many generic brands have imitated the cookies and have called them fig cookies, fig bars, or fig rolls. Nabisco dropped the word “fig” in 2012 because Nabisco produces other types of Newtons.  But according to the New York Times, they dropped the word “fig” because figs aren’t really that cool and just like prunes, were associated with being geriatric and having laxative effects. It’s a turn-off for people who did not grow up eating Newtons. As a Gen-Xer born at the very tail end of baby-boomers, I have grown loving figs and I find it unfortunate that it’s very hard to find fresh figs where I live. So eating Newtons is the next best thing.

However, I’ve read an interesting article from Smithsonianabout fresh figs and bugs. Fig wasps are born inside the fig fruit. After the females and males mate, the males chew holes for the females to make their way out of the fig to a new fig to nest and lay their eggs, carrying with them pollen from the fig’s male flowers. The males then die from exhaustion and get “digested” by the fig as it ripens. The wasps are essential to the pollination of the fruit.  Without these wasps, we won’t have any figs.  

Okay, before you start screaming “yuck”, the FDA does allow certain levels of natural or unavoidable defects in food that present no health hazards to humans.  Don’t click on the link from the FDA if you have a weak stomach. The good news is the crunchy bits inside Newtons aren’t bug parts but the actual seeds. So, I will continue to enjoy my Newtons and I hope you do, too.

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