Tag Archives: Caroline Kennedy

First Fig

The poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay – not the luscious fruit from my grandfather’s fig tree – but both I remember fondly.   An interview with Caroline Kennedy in the New York Times “By the Book” reminded me; she recited it for her father – I for my Italian grandfather…

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light.

Fresh Fig Compote

When my grandmother could get to them before all the children ate them off the tree, she made compote for the grownups:


1/2 pound fresh figs

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons Sambuca

Heat butter and brown sugar over high heat, stirring frequently, until syrup begins to bubble. Add figs (quartered with stems removed) and stir to coat with the syrup.  Continue cooking over medium heat to caramelize, stirring constantly to prevent burning.  Just before serving, add the Sambuca.

Ithaka – favorite poem of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

In her collection of poetry, She Walks in Beauty, Caroline Kennedy includes one of her mother’s favorite poems.  I made a copy to keep on my journey.

Ithaka by Constantine P. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon – you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soud sets them up in front of you.
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when, 
with what leisure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time:
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things.
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind –
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Related Post:  Review of She Walks in Beauty