Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Welcome To My Family, Genia

Last week, Genia came to my house to meet my parents. No, we're not dating, and no, this isn't anything like meeting the parents and "taking our relationship to the next level" or anything. We were both in Illinois and had vacation time, so we spent a day together. That's all.

We spent the afternoon being pretty lazy, hanging out in the yard with my mom and watching cable. We later went out to dinner with my parents. That's what I usually do when I'm at my parents' house. It's an effing vacation right there!

After dinner, we were all kind of standing around in the kitchen when my dad decided to begin "preparing the fruits." This is an almost nightly ritual that takes place at my parents' house. Dad gets out several fruits, probably about five types, and begins preparing them. Oranges and pears are peeled, blueberries are washed and presented in a beautiful bowl, strawberries get the green parts chopped off, and melons are shaped into attractive pieces. Peaches and kiwis are avoided because he can't stand the way the fuzzy skin feels. Those ones are up to my mom to prepare.

Then comes the inevitable...Dad goes to the refrigerator in the garage, reserved only for fruits, giant jars of olives and pickles he makes himself, and a variety of beers that nobody ever really drinks. He returns with a crate of figs...and I use the term "crate" quite literally. This particular crate is about 12 by 24 inches. Full of figs.

So here's the part where Genia gets initiated. It has happened to several people so far, Tara included. I think my dad took her out to the garage and opened the trunk of his car, asking her "Do you like dates?" She was dating my brother at the time, and was thoroughly confused, until he showed her the giant-raisin-looking fruits stacked in his trunk, again, in crates, and made her sample one. It was probably all she could do not to spit it out. Actually, maybe she did spit it out later, covertly. Tara? Any information?

Okay, I'm digressing. Here's how it went:

Dad: Genia, have you ever had a fig?
Genia: No, I don't think I have
Dad: Come over here, have one. These are the most delicious things you will ever eat

Genia samples a freshly peeled fig straight from my dad's hand. She likes it, which means she's in! Approval abounds, and she and my dad chat as they eat a few more figs each. My mom and I mention this one time we had dates wrapped in bacon at a tapas restaurant, to which my father replies (and this is a direct quote by the way...I wrote it down immediately after he said it, for the soul purpose of later repeating it in this blog):

When you want to mock lovely fruits, you put chocolate on dates or cheese on figs. This is an insult.

Beautiful, right? My dad is a lovely, beautiful man who just wants to share the wonder of unadulterated fruits with the world. Only, then the initiation turns into a weird sort of hazing. He pulls out the gross dates, the hard, round, yellow ones that taste awful to probably everybody except him and Auntie Vicky.

"Try this one," he says to Genia. As I watch her attempt to choke down a tiny bite, I think of my cousin Laith, who, when traveling in Saudi Arabia, was served a plate of cooked pigeon. Not wanting to insult, he began eating it. The men around him laughed, explaining that they always serve pigeon to "The New Guy." He stopped eating, relieved, knowing that he was officially part of the Arab business world, and waited for his meal of plain old regular lamb to arrive.

My father watches Genia and says "You don't like this one, do you?" She shakes her head honestly and he holds out his hand to take the half-eaten date and put it in the trash. "Not very many people do."

As I stand back and observe, Genia and my father keep chatting as if they've known each other for years. She asks him how dates grow, and he says "I will show you. Hold on a minute." He disappears from the room for a few minutes. Then we hear the voice from the front of the house, calling insistently "Genia! Come over here!" Genia, giggling, goes to find my father. A few minutes later, they two of them are leaning over the kitchen counter looking at a beautiful photo album that I've never seen before. My father explains that a patient of his used to travel in the Middle East in the 1950s and was a photographer. After my father treated him, the man wanted to give my father a gift. He put together an album of photos from Iraq and other parts of the Middle East, complete with captions, and gave it to my father. The pages are full of date palm trees, camels, people working in the souks, minarets atop mosques...these are some of the most beautiful pictures I've ever seen. And, per my father's request, little to no evidence of war or religion anywhere.

"Dad, where did this come from?" I ask in amazement. He looks at me, shaking his head and smiling. "Reemie, this has been sitting in the living room for about twenty years."

I later relay this entire story to my brother, who has never heard about this album either. It blows my mind that things like this exist in my life and only seem to surface as a result of the beautiful connection brought about by figs and dates.

Maybe I should try fresh dates again. Maybe I'll be justly rewarded. Maybe fruits are the answer to everything I've been looking for. What a lovely solution.


Genia the Queenia said...

Everyone must meet Reem's father, he's wonderful AND hilarious...now I know where she gets it!
I think this was the best time I've ever had meeting anybodys parents, seriously. Reem, I totally forgot that you took pictures...and I did notice you writing something down, but I didn't realize you were writing quotes from your dad!
I still think the best part was when we were at dinner and I was telling the story about getting fired from my job waiting tables when I was 19. I said, "I was so naive I didn't even know I was going to get fired" and your dad's question was "So, did you cry?"
I was going to tell that part, but he got to it first! Of course I cried!!! Amazing.

Tara said...

Reem! I love your dad, I'm actually all welled up with tears right now!

I love that you remembered that story about my introduction to dates. I also had the fig and pomegranite introduction. What you left out of my story was that it was the first time I had met your dad! And we were at the barber shop because Emil was getting a haircut. He asked me if I liked "Date" without the S and I was so confused, I thought he was asking if I like dating Emil. Then he took me to his car outside where there were literally like 3 big crate/boxes of dates. I took one knowing I was going to hate it, and sat inside, while Emil got his haircut, nibbling on it for like an hour. Emil saw that I didn't like it and mouthed "Don't let my dad see you throw it away" So I had to sit there and nibble it with him sitting next to me. I knew he could tell I didn't like it, I was taking the tiniest little bites every like 10 minutes.

My first fig and date was given to me by your dad and I loved fig the second I tasted it! I still love them. When I was in the middle east I ate fig jam all the time. Now whenever I see anything fig related I think of your dad and I think of being in the middle east again.

Now I understand why your blog made me cry!

I found a middle eastern grocery in Austin that carries fig jam!! The first time I saw it I think I cried.

So emotional! :-)

Reem Tara said...

Oh my god, the two of ye are making me get all emotional now! Dad rules.

The Pirate Queen said...

mmmmmm. . .fresh figs

i miss them. and your dad. . .and your mom. . .and you dammit.

Swoon Queen said...

I love figs. Fresh figs, amazing. In a Newton, not half bad. I used to work at a restaurant with a very fruit-centric chef.

Exhibit A: Thin crust woodfired pizza w fig jam, mascarpone cheese, prosciutto and arugula.

Exhibit B: Dates stuffed with Marcona almonds, wrapped in bacon, topped with melted blue cheese.

your blog is so great.
we should hang out some time.

Reem Tara said...

See now, both of those sound absolutely delicious to me, but my father would shake his head and give us a speech about how we're mocking the fruit...

Yes let's hang out! I just texted you!

Rebecca said...

Oh Dr. T. How I love you. Reemie Doodles, why didn't I know you had a blog!!! I have one too, but it's all about food. Maybe I should have your dad do a guest post about fruit. :-)
- Ooglemyer

Reem Tara said...

Becky! What what!!! Great to hear from you! What's your blog? Send me the link!

Sara Ashes said...

1) I always think o "making" the fruits.

2) the secret to the strawberries is that Mom sprinkles sugar on them when Dad isn't looking. He busted her the last time I was home, on the Sunday night. He said "I think you added something." and she said "oh just a little sugar" and shook her head as if he was making a fuss. It totally tastes better this way.

3) I remember when he got that photo album. The pictures are truly amazing. It was around the same time that he famed all those pictures that now hang in the living room.

4) beautiful, lovely piece sissy! xoxo

ela said...

"let the dates be your chocolate." - Dr. Totonchi. Indeed.

RebeccaL said...

This is a great story Reem! I love imagining your Dad "preparing the fruits" every night. BTW, I LOVE figs, I eat them a lot in the summer when they are in season.


luai said...

Hey everybody, this blog and these comments are all really concerning to me. Don't get me wrong, I love my Godfather and the stories about him on Reem and Sara's Blogs are my favorite ones. Especially because whenever I read his quotes I say them out loud in a bad Iraqi accident with perfect pauses just like he does.

But I must attest this big fruit lovefest going on here is really starting to concern me. Before you know it you're going to start talking about how you love vegetables, and then how you love cutting them up, and then cutting them up and putting them into bowls. Well let me set the record straight Bub, THAT is a SALAD. And if there is one rule we all know to live by, it is this:

You don't win friends with salad! You don't win friends with salad! You don't win friends with salad!

You're all welcome for your wake up call.

Reem Tara said...

Luai, I love the shit outta you. Thank you for the wakeup call.

I'm off to eat only carbs and cheese! No vegetables for me!

Sara Ashes said...

omg, did Luai just call us "bub"?!?

Cody said...

This was thoroughly enjoyable to read and beautiful. Thanks even though you are a total boner.

Sara Ashes said...

I ate bruschetta last night that was made with gorgonzola cheese and fig jam and thought how Dad would have been offended.