Internet helps solve fig mystery

By Kevin Wilson
Deputy editor

While waiting for the oven to finish my dinner, I took a brief trip online to find a friend had photographed his dessert.

I normally abhor such things, but he had a blueberry Newton. Wait, what? I had no idea these existed. I knew of the standard fig variety, and of the strawberry, and the long-ago discontinued apple — which were awesome from the fridge or the microwave. But never the blueberry.

I talked to my friend the next day, and asked how long the blueberry Newtons had been around. I love blueberry, and felt like my ignorance was depriving me. He said he didn’t know they existed until he bought them at the store that afternoon — and that Apple Cinnamon was also an option.
Then he asked me, “Why fig?”

I paused.

“I’ve never understood the popularity of the fig,” he continued. “Who is this silent majority that’s eating figs, while the rest of us scour for limited edition varieties with fruits we really like?

“Imagine a board meeting, where a company is building a fruit-filled dessert. The board members all suggest apple and blueberry but then some junior executive pipes in, ‘I don’t know if we can line this up, but what if we go with the delicious fig?’ And now he’s president of the company. I don’t see it.”

I didn’t think that was true either.

“So here’s my theory,” I said. “Now, mind you I just made this up right here, but what if it was a guy who was just trying to get into the market with his delicious fruit-filled cookie crust? He couldn’t afford apples or blueberries or strawberries, but he knew his crust was so delicious he could put a cheap fruit in and still succeed. So, just to get the cookie out there, he went with figs and the whole thing took off despite the filling.

“Or better yet, he had the money to produce a certain number of desserts, depending on the fruit he used. Most sodas have high fructose corn syrup because it’s cheaper than cane sugar, and maybe figs are the same way. For the same capital, the creator could either produce 500 apple Newtons, 400 blueberry Newtons or 1,500 fig Newtons. He can charge half as much for the fig Newtons and still make a healthier profit.”

He responded, “Or … a guy had a farm full of figs, and invented the cookies to raise the value of the product.”

I couldn’t leave curiosity alone and I looked it up online. About 30 seconds later, I sent him the answer: Health craze. Late 1800s physicians recommended biscuits and figs for digestive problems. Somebody figured out how to mass produce a fig pastry, then sold the recipe.

And there is the biggest benefit and drawback of the Internet. What would have been a days-long research effort is now a few keystrokes on a smartphone.

It makes one wonder … since wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge, how wise will we be if there’s no inherent satisfaction or motivation to know anything you can just look up instantly?

It’s something to ponder over a few Newtons … whenever I decide on a flavor.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Clovis Media Inc. He can be contacted at 575-763-3431, ext. 318, or by email:
kwilson@cnjonline.com