For all their complex flavor, Fig Newtons are a deeply stigmatized cookie-cake hybrid. It’s the supermarket staple for “unhip” baby boomers, and one of the most under-appreciated snacks in the vending machine.
Some people are able to find love in their hearts for this ancient treat. Julia Bell, a 22-year-old college student has broken the code of silence around Fig Newtons and declared her love for the delicacy with her Fig Newtons plating account, @Fignudes.
The account treats Newtons like it’s part of haute cuisine, not some culinary underclass.
“I think they are pretty stigmatized,” Bell told Mashable. “They have a weird demographic — the only people who really eat them are really young people and really old people. I hadn’t had one in years in early elementary school before I started living with this girl a few summer ago. She started buying them … [and even though] they have this sad reputation as a disgruntled cookie, they have a more complex flavor than a lot of other convenience foods. They can pair with a lot of other flavors, savory and sweet — compared to Pop-Tarts, which is all sweet.”
Bell decided to start plating her Fig Newtons precisely because of their complexity. In her mind, they deserved to be plated just as much as other, high-end food.
“You see so many plates of really exquisitely prepared food on social media. It was such a stark contrast to everything I was eating while living on a student budget and trying to cook for myself. So I thought it would be funny to make what I was eating look what I was seeing online.”
On Fignudes, Newtons aren’t just plated. They’re garnished. They’re herb-crusted and made into weeknight recipes. They’re aromatized, whatever the hell that means.
Bell takes all the photos herself. By posting her account to the Culinary Plating subreddit, she was able to accrue almost 5,000 followers in just a few months. Sometimes, Bell says, her account makes it to the top of the subreddit. Other times, it’s labeled as spam because folks can’t believe it’s real.
For Bell, it’s all very humorous and all very real. The account is both a send-up of food culture as it is a celebration of it. Fig Newtons, she claims, are just as removed and intangible as other more traditionally upscale foods. Most people don’t have access to haute cuisine. And most people don’t understand the inscrutable chemicals that go into convenience store treats.
They’re both equally removed from regular people:
“A really highbrow plate of food — you won’t even know what it is,” Bell argues. “The ingredients have been so worked over, the language is a little inaccessible. But that’s also true of lowbrow food. If you were to look at a Pop-Tart, you couldn’t pick out many food elements of it.”
Folks, I encourage you to cast aside your prejudices and reconsider the Newton. It’s more than a cookie. It’s more than a cake. And screw it, it’s more than a cookie-cake hybrid. The Fig Newton a work of goddamn art, everyone, and finally we have the Instagram account to prove it.