Ingredient: Dates

It’s official. We are halfway through Lent, which for me means I’m that much closer to having my sweets again. I hope that the drastic fasting from refined sugar is going to gain me some heaven-points, but probably all of my crying about it is negating any positive effects I would have otherwise gained.

Just because Sugar Shoes has no sugar doesn’t mean she has no shoes. In other words, desperate times call for desperate measures, and suddenly prunes are a miraculous treat, raisins a fine snack. The very best of the natural sweets, though, is the date. The Lebanese have known this for millennia, serving dates on a platter like a dessert. Now, I wouldn’t call dates dessert, but I would call dates incredibly delicious. All of the qualities of a sweet snack are there: sink-your-teeth-into-it chewy, finger-licking-good sticky, and a deep golden brown color reminiscent of molassesy dark brown sugar.

I think of dates as nature’s caramel, for their brown-butter, caramelized sugar flavor all worked up by the sunshine. I tend to think about yellow bags of Sugar Babies candy whenever I eat a date (I know, it’s time for an intervention). The California Medjools are the best of the dates because they are fleshy, moist, and you can sink your teeth right into them. Like tahini, our grown-up peanut butter, medjool dates seem to be a big-kid taste—which is kind of too bad, because if you could entice little kids to get past the homely appearance and actually taste a date (and not after eating M&M’s or gummy worms), there’s plenty of sweet there even for them.

We’re making our sweet dates into an even more alluring delight later this week, one that includes some toasted almonds, limes, and a little California dreamin’.

Oh, also. I have a confession to make, as long as we’re here. I did eat…two…donuts.

But they were very small donuts. And what are you going to do when you pull up to a gas station in Southwest Florida and attached to it is a start-up donut joint called Peace, Love and Little Donuts? Just stand there and stare? Not I. Not my brother, who gave up fried foods. My sister, however: yes. She is a fanatic when it comes to fasting. The girl took a bread baking class at the French Pastry School in Chicago last week and wouldn’t allow herself to even taste the homemade Nutella or any of the other confections that were part of a spread for the students. I told her that she committed a far bigger offense by not eating than she would have by eating. She said that’s just the talk of a guilty sister.

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16 Comments

  1. allison F. Lange on March 13, 2012 at 8:40 AM

    Hey Maureen…

    LOVE your post today!!!
    I never think of eating dates, unless they are wrapped with bacon! hahahaha!!!

    And, you are killing me with these beautiful donuts!!!!
    YUMMY!!!!!

    Hope you are well!!!!
    xoxo’s….
    🙂

    • Maureen Abood on March 13, 2012 at 10:40 AM

      Hi Allison, and aren’t dates so good wrapped with bacon?!! I might have to make a few of those too….hope to see you soon!

  2. Peggy on March 13, 2012 at 9:03 AM

    Sweetheart sister, let’s at least be honest, you ate a hell of a lot more than 2 donuts! You’ve never eaten just two donuts! Fess up.

    • Patti on March 13, 2012 at 9:48 AM

      oohhhhhh, Maureeeeenn, you’re in trouble now!

    • Maureen Abood on March 13, 2012 at 10:39 AM

      I think that lack of sugar is getting to YOU, sister!! You need some sweetening up!! It wasn’t easy, but I did stop at two…

  3. Scot on March 13, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    Nothing like a sibling to keep you honest! 🙂

    • Maureen Abood on March 13, 2012 at 10:40 AM

      Isn’t that the truth!

  4. Christine on March 13, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    Loved this post, I will have to reach for a fig next time I feel the urge for a sweet. Tell Peggy she shouldn’t be so hard on herself! Poor thing, passing up homemade Nutellla!

    • Maureen Abood on March 13, 2012 at 11:01 AM

      Thanks Christine…I couldn’t agree more!!

  5. Roger Toomey on March 13, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    Well, I would say the proper punishment would be two extra weeks after the end of Lent. But I’m not the one that will judge. Maybe if you just put in 40 days and 40 nights sometime this summer when all of the fruits and vegetables are fresh. That might be easier. ;^)

    Actually I could do away with refined sugar—–but not my salty snacks. My popcorn popper never leaves the counter.

    • Maureen Abood on March 13, 2012 at 4:39 PM

      Seems it’s one or the other for people: sweet or salty. Now you’ve got me thinking of a big bowl of popcorn and it’s gotta happen soon!! I’m already talking about letting up the fast before Easter (Palm Sunday?) let alone going beyond!!! Such weakness…..

  6. Diane Nassir (My maternal grandmother was an Abowd) on March 13, 2012 at 4:01 PM

    Love dates! Love Medjools! Having grown up in Los Angeles, I ate them all my life and loved them even as a child. My dear Aunt Louise used to pit them, stuff them with walnuts or almonds and roll them in sugar!!! Big YUM!

    • Maureen Abood on March 13, 2012 at 4:37 PM

      Mmmmm! You had the real deal there in California!! They say it’s a lot like Lebanon….

  7. Betsy on March 13, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    I believe Peggy! But I’m proud of you. It would have been a bigger sin turn away from those donuts …

    • Maureen Abood on March 13, 2012 at 7:17 PM

      You would have eaten them right there with me, wouldn’t you Betsy!!

  8. Betsy on March 13, 2012 at 5:26 PM

    correction: “to turn away from those donuts….”

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