The Romance and Sex Life of the Date

Shields Date Garden is a 1924 roadside attraction and orchard in Indio, near Palm Springs. The orchard grows the sticky-delicious fruits in its name, sells them, makes date milkshakes (mmm) and screens a very famous information film, on loop, over and over, all day, called "The Romance and Sex Life of the Date."

These words are painted on the outside of the attraction. They're large. As in LARGE. And while we may see "sex" written on the outside of some businesses, rarely does one see the word emblazoned upon a genteel fruit stand.

Shields is a lovely, air-conditioned place where you can slurp milkshakes and learn how agriculturists fertilize female dates from male trees (it's a whole process, believe it).

But I'm inspired by it, too, on a creative level, and here's why:

1. It's a beautiful vintage fruit stand. Beyond a stand, really. A queen among fruit stands. A fruit emporium.

2. It's a fruit shop that plays a movie. On loop. About date procreation. Fruit, movies, and science are three of my happy things but rarely does one find them together in the same place at the same time. Magical.

3. It is a wholesome, fruit-selling place and yet it has an eye-popper of a sexy sign painted on the front.

This is my favorite combo in a business: A place with a sense of humor. A place that is sweet with a sassy streak. A place that will put a giant sign out front imploring people to discover how dates, uh. Date?

Spoilers: Dates do not dim the lights, put on soft music, nor light candles. I know this now.

The Wilfair world is a fairly innocent place, I suppose, save the flirty innuendo and forearm talk and kiss thoughts and. And. Hmm. Okay, it's a mostly innocent place and yet? It has its own "romance & sex life" signs, too, displayed here and there, subtle markers that I hope are cheeky and fun and light-hearted.

The upshot? I want conflicting concepts to exist in a single space for the Wilfair books. I want a celebration of squares with the occasional sweaty palm and stomach-flip thrown into the mix.

It can be done. I've seen it done. Shields, you rock.


Kelly said...

This sounds delightful, and has made me way more interested in date cultivation than I would have thought possible.

Any business that can demonstrate a sense of humour is basically guaranteed my custom. The fishmonger I go to is called 'The Prawn Brokers', and my old hairdressers was called 'Curl up and Dye'. One of my many pipe dreams is to one day open up a bakery called 'The Bun Also Rises'.

One of my favourite iterations of the 'conflicting concepts existing in a single space' thing within the Wilfair books is that they are simultaneously completely innocent, and also one of the dirtiest things I have read in recent memory. There is nothing explicit in them, and yet there were lines, especially in Stay Awhile (relating to fingers sliding into evening gloves for example), that resulted in some serious blushing and stomach-flipping on my part.

Wilfair Book said...

Kelly, if you ever visit California I will put this marvelous date destination on your itinerary! Then you, too, will know all about the sex life of a certain pit-laden sticky fruit.

Agree, more humor in business! And I assure you that if you ever open The Bun Also Rises I will visit London solely to eat at your bakery. In fact, I'll write that on the form they ask you to fill out on the plane. "What is the purpose of your visit?" "To eat at The Bun Also Rises."

What will you serve there? I volunteer to help you think up names for all the pastries.

Your sweet observation about the books makes my stomach flip. Thank you!

Kelly said...

Yay I definitely will need volunteers to help think up names for all the cakes and pastries, since although I am a big fan of a pun, I am not the best at coming up with them, so all suggestions welcome!

Books and baking are two of my favourite things, so I've always wanted to open a literary themed cake and coffee shop with lots of cosy corners to sit in and books and board games to borrow. I'd serve really good coffee, and lots of nice tea varieties, yummy sandwiches with freshly baked bread, and lots and lots of muffins, cookies, cakes and pastries.

Wilfair Book said...

What is your MOST favorite thing to bake? Of all that you mentioned. What's your specialty? So I can dream about it today.

Kelly said...

So I'm doing that thing again where you ask for one favourite thing and I give you a whole list instead!

My specialty is probably brownies - I've got a recipe now that seems to give me really gooey, fudgey brownies every time, and I stuff them full of nuts and extra chocolate chunks. A little square of brownie heated up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream is my favourite.

I also make these nutella stuffed chocolate chip cookies sprinkled with sea salt that never last more than 5 minutes around my family or at my office.

Recently I've been playing around with cocktail based cupcakes, so I made mojito cakes - which had a ginger and mint flavoured sponge base, drenched in rum syrup, and then topped with run and mint icing with a little lime zest. I also made pina colada cakes. For those ones I mixed pineapple and coconut milk into the sponge, brushed the cooked sponge with rum syrup, and mixed more rum syrup and coconut into the icing and topped them with a slice of caramelised pineapple. Next up I'm going to try making margarita cakes.

Wilfair Book said...

Broooooownies. Oh yeah. Also, Nutella and sea salt sounds like a winning combo!

NUTELLA. Am I right?

And "drenched in rum syrup" -- four nice words together. But I love all of your cocktail cupcakes ideas! LA is full of food trends -- there's a new one each week -- but I haven't yet heard this. Which means you must try it.

Kelly, this is all fantastic. You sound very accomplished in the kitchen. If Wilfair ever becomes more widely known, maybe you can write a recipe for a Wilfair cupcake? It would need orange zest, I'd guess, but I don't know what else.

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