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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