Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stephanie's Latest Addiction

As those close to me know, I have a habit of going through phases where I crave a certain food above all other things, sometimes to ridiculous extents.  There was, for example, the Great Grapefruit Binge of 2001, in which I went through the equivalent of an orchard in about two weeks' time.  In college I went through my Rice Phase and my Cheese and Crackers Fortnight.  There was the Frozen Mango Madness in Korea, which cropped up for weeks at a time throughout my year there, as well as the Jajang Myeon Period, in which I ate that same dish for lunch and dinner for about three weeks straight (and still wasn't sick of it).  Shortly after I arrived here in China, I experienced the Dragonfruit Bender of 2011, and subsequently learned that overabundance of dragonfruit in the diet has unpleasant side effects for the tummy.

I have recently become enamored with red dates.  I cannot get enough of them!  I was introduced to red date yogurt by my friend Kathryn several weeks ago, and have been eating it almost daily ever since.  I love it because it is not too sweet, and it has just the slightest edge to the flavor.  While in Weihai, Linda and her husband introduced me to the actual fruit, which I immediately took to.

I find that the flavor is best when the dates are in their mostly green phase of life.  They are called red dates because they turn red after being dried.  There are apparently two different types of them, and my kind friends had me sample both.  Those pictured above are the sort that I like best.

Some of the Chinese staff at school were explaining to me recently that red dates (also known as Chinese dates or jujubes) have a ton of health benefits, and when I researched the matter, I found that they were quite right.  Apparently, these have been used in Chinese medicine for over 1,000 years!  They are good for strengthening the blood, helping to cure anemia, and they are supposed to aid the spleen and several other organs.  Additionally (and for me, most importantly), they taste utterly delicious.

The texture is similar to that of an apple when the dates are fresh, and their size is comparable to that of a grape.  They are not too pricy of an indulgence: I bought about a pound of them from Lotus today and paid the equivalent of less than three dollars for them.  You'd pay more than that for chips or a lot of other snacks, and these are way better for you.  I prefer to just munch them as-is, but I have seen a ton of recipes for them, so I may experiment a bit later.

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"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"