I've told you about Reda. He's the boab who lives in our building and cares for the yard, washes the cars, makes sure the water and gas tanks are full, takes the trash out, etc.
When I make dinner these days, I frequently make enough for him, too. I figure, he's far away from his wife and kids, and he only has a tiny hot plate in his room off of the garage. It's not much extra effort to make a bit more food in the evening, but I imagine it makes a difference to him.
He seems to appreciate it, because he repays us in his own way. Once he brought me a huge bunch of wild basil that he'd picked. Another time, he harvested the olives in the backyard and tried to explain how to cure them (they're currently curing in the refrigerator - I'll let you know in another month or so if it worked out for me).
This week, he showed up with this:
He called it (them?) balakh al tamr, and he said he cut it down from a tree out in the front. We spent about 20 minutes back-and-forthing, him trying to explain and me trying to understand what the heck it was.
Can you eat it? I asked.
Yes, but now now, he said.
Do I cook it? I asked.
No, he said, but I couldn't understand what I was supposed to do with it.
Finally we called my Jordanian pal Annie, and they chatted for awhile.
Turns out - I think - that these are palm dates. He cut them down while they were still unripe, and now they need to dry in a warm place for a few weeks (or, alternatively, sit in the freezer for a week) before they can be eaten. He put some of them on cookie sheets in the cupboards and propped a few more up on top of the cabinets.
Now: we wait. I think they'll be ready in a few weeks.
Meanwhile, Reda is leaving us in a few days. He's going back to Egypt to see his family, and he won't be back for a couple of months. We're going to miss him.