There are two types of people in this world: those who think raisins ruin everything and those who don’t.
I squarely fall into the latter category and frequently add raisins to yogurt, oatmeal, and even sandwiches on occasion. I’ll pause… if you feel triggered by this information, this post may not be the one for you.
I realize that many, at least in the U.S., do not feel as keen as I do about these “sun-soaked mature grapes.” In the U.S., raisins, dates, and prunes don’t get much positive publicity. In conversation, these fruits are far more frequently uttered in sentences that also contain the words “constipation,” “laxatives,” and “fiber” than more popular fruits like strawberries, bananas, and peaches. Descriptive words commonly associated with raisins include “shriveled,” “dried out,” and “wrinkly.” Such adjectives are literary appetite suppressants. In short, our dehydrated friends do not have the best reputation.
To add insult to injury, Ocean Spray, the largest producer of “craisins” (cranberry raisins) in a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when petitioning to exempt craisins from a requirement that highlights labeling foods with added sugar, the company argued “…cranberries… are naturally low in sugar, giving them a distinctly tart, astringent, and even unpalatable taste.” Ouch!
While I’m not here to make you like raisins, perhaps, I can interest you in the date? If you grew up in the U.S. on a standard American diet, dates probably were seldom, if ever, on the menu. Weirdly, I still remember the first date I have ever tried. I was in Sunday School, literally almost two decades ago, when one of our teachers brought in dates, because this was the sort of food that people ate during Jesus’s time… or something. This “first date,” if you will, may have been the only date that I had ever consumed in my childhood. (Also, I just looked up dates on Wikipedia and found this piece of information: Dates are mentioned more than 50 times in the Bible and 20 times in the Qur’an— fact of the day).
Dates (which are absolutely not like raisins at all) are quite popular in Middle Eastern diets and even hold a special significance in Oman’s culture. Dates are sweet and sticky and if your diet is not saturated with artificial flavors or high-fructose corn syrup, the taste is saccharine enough to satisfy your dessert craving.
I recently bought a pack of dates and grew suspicious when I felt that I was biting into a sugar bomb. I checked the label and thought I , perhaps, ordered some date-like candy rather than a bon fide fruit. However, much to my delightful surprise I saw that there was no added sugar to this natural confection. I am now a big fan of Phoenix dactylifera, aka the date, and find that they taste very good when paired with walnuts.
All in all, Dear Reader, I am a woman who is easily amused. If you are still a date virgin, I hope you too can experience something nice with your first date.