Coffee and Dates

Omani coffee and dates are very different from an Omani coffee date, but I wouldn’t mind having one of those as well.

Omani coffee in a majlis in A'Roos

The sun glimmers off Omani coffee in a majlis in A'Roos

Dates conveniently enough grow on a tree called the date palm. Okay, it has some fancy Latin name like Phoenix dactylifera, but let’s make this easier on us. The date palm grows everywhere in the Middle East: farms, roadsides, parks, the tiny patch of soft ground in the middle of a turn about (that would be “a traffic circle” to Americans). The fruits of its labor are an acquired taste – one that I did not have the pleasure of acquiring until I entered Oman.

.

A date tree full of, well...dates.

A date palm full of, well...dates.

majlis

I have eaten dates on a number of occasions in the states – the benefit (or disadvantage as the case may be) of living with a family that spends half of their time in the Middle East. As a self-proclaimed foodie I will put just about anything in my mouth twice (once to try it and the second time to make sure it was as bad as my memory understood it to be). The continuous date trying exchange would typically go something like this.

“I brought you a present from Dubai…” says the voice coming from the other room.

“Yay! I love presents!” I respond enthusiastically.

“This is one of Thomas’ favorites and Thomas knows his dates,” I hear as the matte gold box is opened on the granite counter beside me.

“Oh…dates…thanks,” I muster up the nerve to reach inside the package for a sample and take a tiny bite. “Mmmm. I’ll have to find a new recipe for these little babies. Thanks for thinking of me,” I manage to get out hiding the hesitation in my voice.

A Date in a Blanket from Aliza Green’s cookbook, Starting with Ingredients: Baking is one of the recipes that has helped me overcome my fear of all things date. You essentially stuff a date with an almond and wrap it in cheddar-curry dough and then bake it. What could be wrong about that? I mean, you could wrap a brick in this dough and I’d eat it.

I knew coming into the Middle East that I was going to have to get over my distaste of dates and fast, but how? Enter the majlis in A’Roos.

boysaroosfixedDriving up the road, the village of A’Roos looks like a smattering of 30 or so houses in the rolling landscape of the Jebel Akhdar mountains in Oman. girlaroosfixedAcross the street, a lone square building and an open-air majlis overlook a spacious valley. As soon as we climbed out of our four-wheel drive vehicles we were greeted by two dishdasha-adorned men and a handful of young children. As the children made their way towards us, we filled their arms with gifts for the village residents – toys, art supplies, games, sewing and shaving kits.

dishdasha

Because a good translation is always needed

.

.

.

With the kids running off to show their mothers their new loot, the young men led us to the majlis where we made English-Arabic conversation and shared photos and life stories.

.

Dates are considered the most important crop in Oman and have tremendous agricultural, religious and social significance. Coffee and dates were offered to us over introductions. The dates seemed to be the reason to enter the majlis, the means to stay and the way to connect.

nassarfixed.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=2144180&dest=-1]

.

As I type these last few sentences a bowl full of pits sits beside me. It seems that I too have found significance in the date even if it is just to distract me from the task of writing (but I will venture to say that it may be a bit more than that). After all, as Mark Twain so eloquently said, “Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” And a date is just a shriveled-up fruit that has perfected the art of networking.

.

Looks like everyone wants to enter the majlis

Looks like everyone wants to enter the majlis

Advertisements

4 Comments

  1. Mallory said,

    May 20, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    That goat is adorable. Are you taking most of these pictures? Also, I was wondering about the religious significance of dates. Your blog makes me hungry!!

  2. Creek Dad said,

    May 20, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Chef Dar: While you and your friends are enjoying your adventures 4-wheeling through the remote mountain villages of Oman enjoying the fruits of the Date Palm, some of us (me) are wandering around the dark forest of the Pennypack watershed looking for a hidden frozen pizza or day-old Wawa meatball sandwich to satisfy our hunger drives. Keep the blog flowing and please bring home the perfect date.

  3. Mallory said,

    June 4, 2009 at 12:59 am

    Mike: go to the grocery store.

  4. December 31, 2009 at 2:14 am

    […] weeks), pch (thank you bff in san diego and sister in san fran). turkey at 28 (thanks ahmet). dubai/oman/india at 29 (‘nuf […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: