Othello: For the love of Dates
A farmer holding a spathe of male inflorescence
(Photo, permission of Saudi Aramco World magazine)
The dates are sought after even when they are still inflorescence in spathes, both male and female. They are eaten raw or boiled, and an aromatic liquid is extracted by distillation from the fresh spathes themselves. Indeed, they have always been regarded as a highly aphrodisiac food. The name for the male inflorescence in Arabic is ‘Ateel, which in medieval times was also a common man’s name, implicative of masculine virility. Incidentally, this brings to mind the Shakespearean Moorish general Othello, for whose name no convincing etymology has been found yet. In the play’s primary source, the Italian story of Un Capitano Moro, no name is given to the character. However, we know that around 1600 several Moorish delegations came to England, and it is not far-fetched to conjecture that Shakespeare might have picked up the name ‘Ateel for his Moorish hero, but not before giving it an Italian ring.
What do you think?
Festive Stuffed Dates
A delicious recipe, I learnt from my mother.
20 pitted dates
20 toasted almonds or walnut halves
1 cup (115 g) all-purpose/plain flour
¼ cup (60 g) butter
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup (125 ml) honey
For garnish: ground nuts of your choice
Stuff pitted dates with toasted nuts. In a small skillet melt butter, and add flour. Stir all the time until flour is fragrant and evenly browned, about 5 minutes. Add cardamom.
Warm up honey to loosen its texture. Dip each filled date in it, and then roll it in the toasted flour immediately. Let the dates pick as much as possible of the flour. Spread the remaining flour on a dish and arrange dates on this bed. Sprinkle with ground nuts and serve with coffee.