I love dates. No, I’m not talking about an awkward teenage boy that comes to my door, gives me a bunch of flowers he bought out of a cooler at the supermarket, and then takes me out for dinner at the Olive Garden andthen to a movie. Most of those date experiences I had were terrible. I mean the fruit.
I never ate dates in the States. If someone tried to get me to eat date loaf (a form of bread that many people I know make), I refused. It sounded like something old people eat. Plus the combination of “date” and “loaf” was absolutely unappetizing. Plus, dates look like prunes. And they’re wierd. When I first tried them here, the big fat ol’ seed in the middle freaked me out. But, now, something’s changed. The same part of my brain that’s exploded and caused me to put plain yogurt on a lot of things I eat also caused me to like dates.
When my friends break their day-long fast, they often break it with a date. This is more holy for them. It’s also traditional because dates apparently thrive in the places where Islam began. So, most of the prophets talked about them. And, no one in those countries ever says to their son: “Hey, Ahmet! Lay off the dates! They don’t grow on trees, you know!” Because a) they’re prevelent and no one needs to conserve them -and- b) they do grow on trees.
But I digress…. Tonight we ate an iftar with some friends. We went to a restaurant for this meal. (For those who know, it was the Smiley Face Place.) You had to make reservations at this place because of Ramadan. To give you some context, that’s like having to make a reservation at Luby’s. This isn’t a swanky place. But, it is good food and was packed out. We wouldn’t have gotten in without a reservation. Everyone was seated long before the call to prayer went off. On everyone’s table was water, bread, and a plate with a few olives and dates. (Apparently some people like to break their fast with olives.) Because the call couldn’t be heard inside the restaurant above all the noise, someone waited by the door to hear it. When it went off, a waiter hollered out “Bon Appetit!” (well, this country’s equivalent) and told everyone they could eat. Most people went for the dates or olives first. Some people went straight for the water. Others breathed a huge sigh of relief, ripped off their nicotine patches, and lit up their first cig. Within 10 minutes the air in the place was blue.
The dates on our table reminded me how much I like dates. So, on the way home we stopped in our market and bought some. And then I sat down at the table and did something that’s unheard of: while my husband ate a chocolate bar, I ate dates. Crazy. I never thought I’d see the day when I didn’t reach for the chocolate bar. I think I need to go see a doctor.
To make this post truly interactive, go to the store and find you some dates. (Stay away from the awkward teenage boys hovering around the floral cooler. They’re someone else’s dates.) Don’t pop them in your mouth and chomp down — there’s a big seed inside. You can either eat half of it and then eat the rest around the seed, or you can pop it in your mouth and chew the gooey goodness off the seed. I promise you won’t regret it. They’re some kind of sugary, gooey, yummy goodness. That’s why when I hear dates, I say YES!