As holiday season approaches, “date cities” increase everywhere as dates, date pastes and date syrups figure into special cookies, sweet breads, rolls and other baked desserts. Even the retro hors d’oeuvres of cream cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon can put a gleam in the eyes of a holiday partygoer.
Dates, like peppermint, ginger, anise and orange rinds, may remind many people of the holidays. But for many others, dates are an everyday food; a staple of the Middle Eastern diet. Muslims observing Ramadan break their fasts by eating dates. Date sales peak at Ramadan, but then again at Thanksgiving and Christmas when they figure into baking, said Haig Tcholakian, spokesman for his family’s Phoenicia Specialty Foods stores where consumers can find many types of dried dates (as well as fresh dates) and other date products.