An informative and enjoyable account of the date and the date palm, following its journey from ancient Mesopotamia to the places where it is cultivated today.
From the Book's Flap:
Dates have an important role in their arid homeland of the Middle East, where they are a dietary staple. The fruit can be consumed fresh or dried, as a snack or a dessert, and are even thought to have aphrodisiac qualities.
In Dates: A Global History, Nawal Nasrallah draws on her experiences growing up in the lands of ancient Mesopotamia, where the date palm was first cultivated, to explore the history behind the fruit. The book describes the central role the date palm played in people’s economic lives, the inevitable elevated status it reached in their spiritual and religious rituals, as a divine gift and Tree of Life, as well as the festivals and celebrations it inspired.
Nawal Nasrallah gives an informative and enjoyable account of the date palm’s story, following its journey from the land of origin to the places where it is cultivated today.
Dates is interwoven with fascinating stories, anecdotes and humour, which touch on etymology, history, culture, religion, myth and legend. Nawal Nasrallah explains how the tree came to be associated with the fiery phoenix, the famous ancient goddess Ishtar and the moon, and how the famous medjool date acquired its name.
Dates is generously illustrated with many beautiful images, and supplemented with more than a dozen delicious recipes for savory dishes (Cupid’s Omelet is not to be missed), sweets and wine. This delightful book is the first of its kind and will appeal to lovers of food and history alike.
Some interesting tidbits, from the back cover:
An ancient Middle Eastern date variety used for making wine was called caryotae, ‘stupid head’.
Dates helped to stave off scurvy on the voyages of pre-modern Arab sailors.
It is said that the Prophet’s first mosque, built in Medina around AD 630, was almost entirely made of palm trunks and leaves.
Scientists recently sprouted a ‘Methuselah’ date palm from a two-thousand-year-old seed that was discovered near the Dead Sea.
The biggest date celebration in the world is the National Date Festival, held in Indio, California.
At Ramadan, Egyptian fruit vendors nickname excellent varieties of date after celebrities; during Ramadan of 2009, the ‘Obama’ date was the most expensive.
(Date-palm detail from a painting by Iraqi artist Maysaloon Faraj)