A friend of my wife’s sent us a platter of dried fruit which I like for being so artfully designed with the different colored fruit and the cluster of nuts in the middle. “Clusternuts” is the polite term for how many people think of all the shopping and prepping they have to do for the Christmas season, but that’s another story. And it does seem very Christmas-y. I remember as a kid wondering what sugar plums were. Then I saw a guy on one of those daytime talk shows making some out of dried fruit, nuts, and sugar. He also took some dried fruit slices and dipped them in syrup which just seemed like a waste of good dried fruit and a recipe for diabetes. I also remember reading The Velveteen Rabbit as a kid, which mentions that, in addition to the title rabbit, “nuts and oranges” were in the Christmas stocking. I’d never thought about it before but I realized that in the 1920s, when the book was published, oranges were a special treat for some people–not just a fruit you could pick up at the store any time you wanted.
The one thing I balked at in this collection of fruit is the dates. I loved dates. Note the past tense. It seemed like fresh dates would show up in the stores around me once in a while, which is odd because they’re widely cultivated and have a long shelf life, especially for fruit. So when I’d see dates I’d fill a bag and munch on them for at least a month.
The last time I did that was early June 2014. Then I was diagnosed with cancer and stress killed my appetite. I’ve avoided even thinking about this but here’s some friendly advice for anyone going through chemotherapy or any medical condition that reduces your appetite: avoid foods you love. Your doctor and other people will try to get you to eat, and you should–it’s important to keep your weight up as part of staying healthy. But if you have nausea or even a reduced appetite you may suddenly find you hate the foods you love.
Or it may just be me. Maybe it’s that I associated a big bag of dates on the kitchen counter with a very uncertain future. Note the past tense.
I pulled a date from the fruit tray. It was warm and gooey and sweet–like chewy honey. It was as good as I remember dates being before looking at them made me sick.
Eight and a half years is a lot of dates and it took all of them for me to realize I love dates again.
I love dates too, especially in cake! My mother grew up in England in the 40s and she says the only time they got oranges was at Christmas—a very special treat!
I didn’t realize oranges were still a special treat that late into the 20th century. Around the turn of the century it made sense. Now of course Britain is growing wine grapes because of climate change and I suspect oranges aren’t far behind.
Well, time for another date.
What a lovely post. I love dates too. Especially in date squares.
Date squares are wonderful! I remember date fillings in pastries when I was a kid but never had whole dates until I was an adult. Now I think I may be hooked on them again.
My best friend and I refer to this time of year as Clustermas, for the reason indicated above. I’m glad that you like dates, and you’re around to enjoy them!
“Clustermas” seems like a more appropriate term for the season. Anyway it really is nice to enjoy dates again.
I love this post, Chris, and I’ll always remember the date when I read it.
I was just thinking that I can’t remember the exact date I started reading your blog but I’m glad I did.