We marathon runners and sports folk are fond of our fig rolls. Packed full of energy, they see us through hard training sessions and races.
Our American friends have an equivalent called Fig Newtons, named after the town of Newton, Massachusetts near the factory that first produced them.
Fig Newtons don’t seem to be on sale in Europe, at least not in the American grocery stores I checked in Paris. So, for the purposes of research, I had a packet smuggled out of the United States and delivered to me in Europe. (I’d rather not think of how my biscuit mule managed to hide the packet from security and customs.)
How do Fig Newtons compare to our fig rolls here on the Old Continent? Let’s compare – a sort of fig roll Ryder Cup, if you will.
The main difference between the two is that Fig Newtons are softer and squishier than the biscuity shell of fig rolls. I would almost say that they are slightly damp. That said, sometimes fig rolls can be a bit dry – I usually have mine with a mug of tea or coffee.
The U.S. cookie tastes sweeter, perhaps because of the corn syrup it contains. I was also a little disconcerted to see among the ingredients “sulfur dioxide (sulfites) added to preserve freshness”. Sulphur dioxide, SO2, is released by volcanic eruptions and has been used as a refrigerant and a bleach. But before we Euros get all sniffy and superior, it also occurs in wine.
So, Fig Newtons aren’t quite as sickly to the European palette as Hershey’s or other American confectionery. But could a marathon runner live on them? I found them not to be particularly filling; a half-packet of 8 fig rolls would stuff me nicely, whereas I ploughed through 12 Fig Newtons in the same insubstantial way you would eat at McDonalds.
Added to that, Newtons are now available in other flavours such as strawberry and blueberry. This shows a distinct lack of dedication and singlemindedness that wins no favours with marathon runners. And I’ve never seen Cookie Monster eat them, surely a damning indictment for a biscuit. In this fig roll v Fig Newton Ryder Cup, it’s Europe for the win.
Here’s a campy ’70s TV commercial for Fig Newtons, closer in spirit to Olivia Newton-John than to Isaac Newton. Hit it, Hal!