One of the things that I love about the food culture in Taiwan is that people really enjoy good quality food. And not just restaurant food, either. It is common to give gifts of gourmet food items, especially items featuring regional produce or local specialities.
Yesterday, we received a surprise gift. Instead of baby clothes, we were given a yummy treat of a bag of walnuts and dates. These were no ordinary walnuts and dates, but rather a delicious combination of freshly hulled walnut halves positioned like miniature yachts on date halves. The walnuts, imported from the United States, paired brilliantly with the fresh, Middle-eastern dates.
I was surprised at how fresh the walnut/date combination was, but knowing Taiwan’s strict food production standards I perhaps shouldn’t have been. The person who gave them to us said that we should consume them as soon as possible after opening them, and to store them in the refrigerator after opening. The package noted that they had only been packed five days’ ago, an indication of their supreme freshness. Unlike inferior walnuts, there was no hint of bitterness and each large half crescent was perfectly round and unblemished. They must have a special way of cracking open walnut shells.
These were an ideal gift for a new mother, because it is consistent with the Chinese postpartum (坐月子 zuo yuezi) diet. Walnuts, like many other nuts, are lactogenic. They are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to improve the quality of breast milk. Meanwhile, dates are rich in calcium and are also believed to help enrich breast milk and boost the immune system. They are also rich in vitamins. Of course, fathers can eat this sweet as well and I am not the only person who has been snacking on them from the fridge. At least it is much healthier than chocolate, which unfortunately is NOT part of the zuo yuezi diet.