Friday, January 11, 2008

My On Again Off Again Love Affair

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "The Date". It came with the following suggestions:

You can either write about an actual date (blind or otherwise) or about a particular date or a due date or a deadline or the best day of your life or the day that changed your life (or if you feel cheeky you could write about the date that is a food.)

Since I am in fact a cheeky broad, I decided to skip the sublime and go straight to the ridiculous.

Dates. Specifically, rotten ones. No, not a bum first date, or that blind date with the guy who had spinach stuck in his teeth the whole evening and talked non-stop about insurance sales. I mean actual dates. The fruit. You know, small wrinkly looking little brown things, grow on palm trees? But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Years ago, Jay lived briefly on a kibbutz on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Northern Israel. I was a student then and used to come up each weekend and any time I had time off. When I was on my mid-winter break I planned to spend about six weeks on the kibbutz, working in exchange for my keep. It was all arranged. I would work in the kibbutz preschool helping to care for the children, a position I was really looking forward to. Unfortunately, just before I was due to arrive I broke my wrist and ended up in a cast. The powers that be on the kibbutz decided that I was no longer able to work with the children with a broken arm, and sent me instead to the date packing house. Ok, I'm a guest, they're opening up their home to me, I'll go where I'm told.

Only catch? (You knew there had to be a catch, right?) The only job I was physically capable of doing with one arm in a cast was sorting dates - grade A (for eating as is), grade B (for making into silan - date syrup - the "honey" of the land of milk and honey), and grade R - for ROTTEN. Rotten, putrid, moldy dates. I spent six straight weeks sorting rotten dates. By the time I was done, I couldn't bear the sight, smell or heaven forbid the taste of a date. It had even impregnated my cast so that my entire arm smelled of rotten dates. I think I was even dreaming of rotten dates attacking me while I slept.

For the next 7 years I couldn't even look at a date, let alone eat one, which is really a shame considering how wonderful Israeli dates are, and the ones from this kibbutz in particular. Thankfully I was eventually able to get over the bad connotations and begin enjoying dates again (I think I might very well sell my sister for a big fat majoul date. Not my kids of course, but my sister very probably.) It did take many more years before I was willing to buy or bake with date syrup. That didn't happen until my son first tasted it in school and came home begging me to buy some.

The Israeli holiday of Tu B'Shvat begins Monday night, and Israelis everywhere will be celebrating by serving plates of dried fruits and nuts with, you guessed it, delicious Israeli dates right there with pride of place. And I'll be loving each and every one.

But I will take a minute out to thank my lucky stars that I didn't have to see them until after they made the grade.

33 comments:

Shannon said...

You certainly are a cheeky broad and so of course you had a date, the fruit, story. i don't know that I have ever known a date sorter before. I can see why dates would have been distasteful for a while - especially the cast smelling and all. Great story!

Janet said...

I was married to a guy that one one of those "small wrinkly looking little brown things" ;-)

Robin said...

Oh shit Janet, I just spit half-chewed carrots on my monitor!

UL said...

A delightful love-affair, let's hope you stay off that 'oof again' part :)

Rose Dewy Knickers said...

This has to be the funniest date I've read all day. :)

Rose

xo

Shari said...

It was amusing and entertaining, but it also transported me to a Kibbutz in the exotic land of Israel. I like that about the story - experiencing part of another culture.

Donetta said...

Good post, I love a good date and really enjoy figs also. In the US it is so hard to find good ones.

Mrs. W said...

What a great read. You should write a book--I love your writing.

I, too, love a good medjool date--yum yum!

Just Jen said...

cheeky indeed! That was a fantastic story. I'm glad you were able to eat them once more. I could never eat them...ever...:D

keith hillman said...

You are SO fruity! What an unusual take, and what a great read.

Bye the way, I always feel like making myself a cup of coffee when I see your header! Mind if I help myself?

tumblewords said...

I'm really fond of dates but I've never had to sort them either. It's probably something like smelling milk gone bad. :) Glad you're back among the enjoyers. Fine post!

Redness said...

This is THE best take ever! Hysterical, so well written, timing, all the right/write stuff! Love, luv, lurrrrve this, Thank YOU!

khambagirl said...

This was really funny! Such a good read, and a good laugh!!! I worked in a cannery in beets -- I still can't stand the smell of them. Well done!!!

sandierpastures said...

Great writing, as always! I love dates and happy that I don't have to see the rotten ones!

Back when I was a teenager, I had a terrible love for breads. My mother let me work in a bakery one summer so I can have my fill of bread smell and cure my "addiction". It did! I never touched bread for more than 6 months after that.


-Dubai's Grace-

Robin said...

By all means Keith, there's a fresh pot right over there on the counter, mugs are in the overhead cabinet, milk's in the fridge.

Thanks for your kind words everyone. I'm enjoying all of your takes as well.

gautami tripathy said...

I love dates. So do I visit you?

:D

Robin said...

Any time Gautami, any time :).

Pieces of Me said...

We bought that syrup all the time - it was so yummy - but I've never yet about somebody's else's 'date' yet .. yours was too good!

Pieces of Me said...

I meant to insert 'read'... sorry

sister AE said...

Oh, how horrible! But it makes a great story and I'm so happy to hear you regained your taste for them.

Tammy said...

How cool you found a great story on actual dates. Delightful!

Sherry said...

Loved this!! I thought about writing something on dates...I absolutely love them and date squares are like manna from heaven for me!!! If some place I go for coffee has them, I forego everything else I love to have one!! I can't imagine how horrible it would be to work with rotten dates!!!

Enjoy Tu B'Shvat and your dates!!

Redness said...

You're invited to join Blogaholics Anonymous - please pop over to my blog for the link and etcetera!xxx

susan said...

You do cheeky well. lol

Stacy said...

This made me smile. I grew up in central California where many dates are grown and you can get date milk shakes. I like dates, but that is an acquired taste!

Meredith said...

One could say that you got a little out-dated.
ps I love grade A dates, but a R one would probably turn me off forever.

GreenishLady said...

I enjoyed this. I am a fan of dates - especially nice big soft ones - but can imagine that your experience would have turned me off them too. Glad you regained your taste!

Jennifer Hicks said...

rotten, putrid dates - there's gotta be lesson there!

Herb Urban said...

At least dates keep you regular. Especially anything under a B grade.

What was wrong with the insurance agent guy with the spinach stuck in his teeth? Sounds like he had potential. You made the right choice waiting around for the beard maker of your dreams.

LittleWing said...

oh, that was very very funny...thanks for the post

Fourier Analyst said...

Funny how smells have such an impact on our lives, likes and dislikes. There is a particular brand of after-shave that I cannot stand after a bad relationship from 20+ years ago!!

Talk about a "bad date"!!

Janet said...

Gah...how do I phrase this? What is the taste difference between date and bee honey? Which do you like better?

Robin said...

They're both good, but different. You know what bee honey tastes like, date honey is much darker, almost more of a syrup, and tastes strongly of dates - a bit like that puree you can buy in US supermarkets but much more concentrated. I use it mainly for baking at holiday time or as a pancake syrup for the kids. I wouldn't put it in tea though.

Does that help?