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Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire

(or Fig Sue, Fig Sewe)

A hot stew or soup made with ale, figs and spices, generally thickened with bread.

Modern Fig-Sue by Sue of Santa Monica, USA

Given in 'A Dictionary of obsolete and provincial English' by Thomas Wright (Wright 1857) as; "A mess made of ale boiled with fine wheaten bread and figs".

Fig-Sue has some association with the Easter period, as a correspondent to the 'Westmorland Gazette' (Saturday 12 October 1833, p3) says; "Does the rustic who eats his pancake on Shrove-Tuesday, his fig-sue on Good Friday, know, or care anything, how the good old custom originated?". The 'Dorset County Chronicle' for Thursday 17 March 1864 has; "Fig-sue—a mixture of ale, sliced figs, bread and nutmeg for seasoning, boiled together and eaten hot like soup, is still prevalent, on Good Friday, in North Lancashire the dish is pronounced a very palatable one.". Though clearly palates change, by 1937 Fig-Sue was described in the 'Nottingham Evening Post' under 'Dying Customs' as; "a horrid concoction bread and figs", while the Derby Mercury for Wednesday 28 April 1886 says that:
"Lancashire provided her sons with a curious Good Friday delicacy, known as "fig-sue," consisting of ale, sliced figs, and bread, seasoned with nutmeg, boiled together and eaten hot like soup. Opinions as to the quality of this dish are of a pleasant diversity, ranging, so to speak, from the light tenor of an "Not unpalatable," to the basso profundo of "utterly abominable." Thus do tastes harmlessly, and perhaps, beneficently differ."

As recently as 2002, a correspondent named 'Abel' to rootsweb.com described; "Fig sewe was a kind of porridge, taken on Good Fridays as an appetiser before a fish course. Made from figs cut into quarters, combined with cubed wheaten bread, boiled in beer or ale which was seasoned with sugar/treacle and nutmeg."

Original Receipt in 'Regional Flavour – a TV Times book' (Independent Television Books Ltd 1975 – ISBN 0 900 72748 9) found by Linda Johnson

Fig Sue
A hot drink made from figs and mild beer, which was drunk on special occasions mainly in the farm houses. It was drunk from the old-style blue and white porridge basins.

Preparation Time: overnight
Cooking Time: 10 minutes


2 pints mild beer
4oz dried figs

Bring half a pint of beer to a simmer and pour over the figs. Leave to soak overnight. Add the remaining beer and bring the mixture to simmering point again and hold it at simmering point for 5 minutes. Strain and allow to cool before drinking. The figs, of course, are cooked and taste absolutely delicious, hot or cold, after being soaked in the beer.”

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