It’s no surprise that many of us get a warm, cozy feeling when we think about the foods of our childhoods. For me, the fig square was a favorite while growing up here in Nashua.
My mom and her two sisters would serve the elegant square pastry at holidays and the squares would often pop up at special events.
Back in the day, Dunkin’, formerly known as Dunkin’ Donuts, began with 52 doughnut varieties — one for every week.
I recall standing in line with my dad at the popular eatery in Railroad Square and eyeing the more expensive treats. He asked me to choose a doughnut, and I proudly announced I wanted a fig square.
“No, no fig square, today, Joan,” he said. “You mean to tell me with 52 varieties, you can’t choose one?”
My dad’s older brother, Uncle Tom the principal, would have bought me the fig square without hesitation. I was slightly annoyed but selected my favorite, a jelly doughnut. But I craved the rows of fig squares sitting before me on the massive pastry tray.
Fig, lemon, apple and raspberry squares are not easily found outside New England. Many New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians, for instance, have never heard of the flat, fruit-filled treat on two layers of flaky crust.
Crosby Bakery in downtown Nashua sells them. The family-owned and operated Gate City establishment has been around since 1947 and offers the yummy fruit square in all four flavors mentioned above.
The French-Canadian influence still has a powerful and nostalgic presence in Nashua and Manchester, too. Thanks to the hiring of immigrants from Canada and other countries to work in our booming textile manufacturing centers, southern New Hampshire’s population featured a large number of immigrants, making our cities well-rounded and ahead of the curve.
According to the Manchester Historic Association, 60 percent of the textile workers in the state were French-Canadian by 1900.
I recently met two elderly sisters at an area hospital when I overheard them talking about poutine. Many French-Canadians consider it the closest thing to a national dish. Poutine is most prominent in Quebec and is a delicious, comfort food for autumn and winter. The treat consists of french fries, “squeaky” cheese curds and a rich gravy poured on top.
The patient told her sister she was craving poutine for breakfast but that it wasn’t on the hospital menu. They shared a good laugh and promised to indulge when she returned home.
They asked me if I enjoyed eating poutine, but I had to admit that I had never sampled the dish.
“Oh, you must try it. You will not be disappointed,” they chimed in together.
Food is so important to our heritage no matter where we’re from or where we’re living. And now I’m looking forward to trying a plate of steaming-hot poutine.