When Sarah Al-Hamad had her first bit of Sticky Toffee pudding in the recipe’s origin town of Cartmel, England the self proclaimed foodie and author knew there was something distinctly familiar about the dish. Sure enough its main ingredient was one she, and most from her hometown in Kuwait, have felt was exclusively Arab: the date. So began a journey that took her around the world to find her culture in other countries.
“When you are abroad you are always looking for a connection between where you live and where you came from,“ she said.
From date festivals in Kuwait to farms in California, each page of her cookbook Sunbread and Sticky Toffee: Date Desserts from Everywhere tells the story of the fruit’s arrival and impact on its newfound homes. The palms were brought to Spain as early as the 5th century when Carthaginians who settled in what is now known as Alicante. The fruit became a symbol of fertility, and even influenced much of the architecture in the city. In England they were brought over during the Middle Ages, and considered a luxury food. Just a century ago they were introduced to the United States when the Department of Agriculture brought back 11 palms from Kuwait, and planted them in southern California.
It is these stories that make Al-Hamad’s book such a great read. Besides amazing recipes that range from sunbread as made by the Ancient Egyptians to her own contemporary date cheesecake, she takes the reader on a journey of a food that has traveled the world.
Her fascination with the story of the fruit’s travel is evident from cover to cover. On the inside of the book’s binding she highlights postage from all over the world that uses the date. She starts the book with a map of the regions were dates have found a home. Each chapter is adorned with personal photos taken by Al-Hamad to document the plethora of people and places she connected with in order to follow the trail.
While this is not her first cookbook, her Cardamom and Lime was the first on authentic Gulf cuisine, it’s definitely the one she feels most connected with.
“On this voyage, in the footsteps of date palms everywhere, I have learned that nothing is as local as we believe, that people are always connected by ideas, trade, knowledge, and discoveries,” she says in her book.
Sunbread and Sticky Toffee: Date Desserts from Everywhere is available for sale at Zeri Crafts in Salmiya. For more information call 9940 2406 or email [email protected]