Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mango: The King of Fruits

Summer’s here. And there’s only one thing that makes me look forward to this season. That, of course, would have to be the arrival of truckloads of mangoes into each market. I grew up at the IIT Madras campus and we had a reasonably huge garden. We had 2 coconut trees, one lemon tree, 1 sapota tree, a banana patch, and 2 mango trees. One tree was of the Rumani variety and the other belonged to the Humayun clan. Rumani is quite ordinary. It is available all over Madras by end of May or early June. Humayun, however, is unique in that it is not easily available. But it is one of the sweetest and tastiest mangoes I have ever eaten.

When I was much younger, I read somewhere that the Mango is the King of Fruits and I thought, “No, it can’t be. It has to be the orange.” I loved oranges then and continue to do so. I can finish a dozen or so of them in an afternoon if no one’s watching. Amma tells me she ate 2 dozens a day when she was carrying me and would sometimes not eat anything else. Maybe that’s where I got my love for oranges. I digress! I used to think that people loved the mango only because it was seasonal. Maybe not. I think I’d eat mangoes everyday throughout the year of they were available. I love them. I, in fact, love all kinds of fruit. But the mango is special.

One mango related incident that stands out in my, and my entire family’s, memory dates back to when I was about two and a half years old. We were spending the summer at my aunt’s place in Bangalore. Appa had taken H for a movie and Amma was at home with me. She took off my clothes and sat me down on a chair in a banian so that she’d have less to clean and gave me a mango. I ate it and by the time I came to the seed, I had mango all over my face and the white banian had turned yellow for most part. Just then, the movie goers returned. I quickly hid the mango seed behind my back and turned to H.

Me: What am I eating?
H: mango

Me (Wide eyed and full of awe, he was after all the hero in my life): How did you know?

H teases me to this day whenever I sit down to eat a mango. He says, “You had ‘mango’ written all over you and yet you thought that if you kept the seed hidden, I’d never know. Innocence was your first, middle, and last name. You should have stayed that way: tiny, naïve, and innocence personified. Why did you have to grow up?”

I spent many summers in Bombay, the city where I was born and the one that has gone down in all records as my “native place”. I ate a lot of Alphonso mangoes each summer, and while I do like them, I am not crazy about them as most Bombayites tend to be. Call me a true blue Madrasi, Chennai-ite or whatever you like. My favourite variety after the Humayun is the Banganapalli mango. People make fun of me for loving this fruit as it is so common. My friends tell me that the only real mangoes are the Alphonso, or Chausa or Dusehri varieties. How do I care? I love it and truly believe in making hay while the sun shines. So, since these beautiful yellow sun kissed Banganapallis entered the market in March, I have been buying them by the kilo. I can eat just that throughout summer and not want anything else. Or maybe just mangoes and vanilla ice cream. For breakfast, I could have a Rasalu mango too. I am not too fond of mango flavoured things like mango ice cream. Maybe I got that bit from Appa. Appa loves chocolate, but doesn’t care much for chocolate flavoured things like ice cream or milkshake. Likewise, give me mangoes anyday.

Mangoes and ice cream always remind me of this conversation I had with my FPG, Anand, when I was working in Madras. Both of us were crazy about mangoes and both of us ate cereal for breakfast.

Anand: Good morning.
Me: Hey, morning. Guess what? Instead of adding banana or raisins to my muesli this morning, I added mango. It tasted great.
Anand: Oh you tried that too. You know what? We had corn flakes and milk. And I added chopped mango too. And much to Vidya’s surprise, I added a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was heavenly.
Me: I should try that too. Ice cream in the morning. Wonder what Amma’ll say though.

And we got back to our desks to begin work. Five minutes later, I walked up to his work station.

Me: Anand
Anand: Yeah?
Me: I was thinking about your breakfast.
Anand: Hmmm?
Me: What were the cornflakes and milk doing in the bowl anyway?

There are a few mango recipes that are very typical of Saraswat cuisine. I will soon post the recipes in my other blog. Keep watching this area.


Whizkid said...

I've grown up eating a lotta "Banganapalli" too, which has been my Mom's fav and my fav too, purely by virtue of being treated to this variety than any other, as Mom always chose this....Mar/apr, invariably every alternate night, I used to get treated to Mango milkshakes that my Mom is so gud at s child play for an expert cook that she is...The only prob with Mangoes is that Mom's offering of Mango/shake always came with a premonition that one too many mango will heat up the human system and somehow I started attributing those small pimples and boils on my forehead that used to last for a couple of days, to mangoes...The fear still lingers in my mind !!

Raaga said...

@Whizkid: Milk and curd combat the "heat" generated by mangoes... go on... pimples come and pimples go... but mango will not stay forever. Just summer.

Pretty Woman said...

Mangoes are calories-galore! Each of us have our own reason for loving mangoes though! Nice post :)

Raaga said...

@Janani: I've never worried about calories and the like... I think my figure stands testimony to that!

Rajitha said...

dude after my own hearrt eh!! and i am with you...what were the cornflakes and milk doing there :D....thnks for sending in the link...makes me happy...the nutsy's are the majority....bah! to the bores...