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.