Today I made a domestically controversial salad (my Paul doesn’t like the ingredients and I knew that before I made it) that incorporated mangos. It was a salad I discovered last year, to which I added green peppers and blueberries and lemon balm. (I know–what the heck, right?) It was delicious.
Here is how much I love mangos:
When I was writing that novel I started at age 17 and gave up on at age 27, the main character, Nayali, loved mangos so much that they became one of those integral side details which I don’t think I realised until today were quite so subliminally pivotal as they were.
- When trying to dodge palace guards: I had already been seen. But I had lost my pursuer somewhere among the mangos, and my goal was to keep him or her from finding me again. There were now, I hoped, three surrounding walls between us, as well as the mangos.
- When trying to sort out what to do next: I headed off to the mango orchard which I had loved to frequent when I had served Aris. I loved it because it was quiet, a mottled sun-and-shade place which suited my personality and helped me think. I needed to think. Besides, I loved mangos, and it was just the season when they were at their sweetest.
- When feeling conflicted about the man she loved who loved someone else: I ate a lot of mangos that afternoon. I often had in the past when I couldn’t sort something out. I couldn’t sort this out. I knew why Gahar’s feelings for Aris mattered; I wanted him to have feelings for me. But something else was wrong. It was dusk when I got up from my seat under the mango. I washed the mango juice off my face, hands, and arms in the man-made goldfish stream and returned to the room at the top of the North Tower.
Maybe you can tell why I eventually gave up on that book, but the mango-love never dies, I’m telling you. The reason why mangos kept creeping into that story is mainly because when we were in Honduras, we had a mango tree in our backyard.
We had a number of fruit trees, actually. We had a banana tree that went completely mad, for example–growing from this tiny little thing to an enormous leafy tower from which we would yank leaves to play with.
You could split them in strips and “weave” them together like they taught us to do with construction paper in first grade. You could, as TheBro did at age three, pretend they were machetes with which to cut the grass. (We didn’t see a lawnmower until we moved back to the USA, and we didn’t know machetes were ever used for anything else.) I used to have this weird fear-fantasy that one of the military helicopters flying overhead was going to send a bucket down into our yard and I would have no choice but to get in it and be taken away from my parents and the life I knew, but if I hid under the banana tree they wouldn’t be able to see me and I’d be all right.
We also had an ugli fruit tree, and maybe a tangerine tree or something. None of these trees ever seemed to do much of anything except grow bigger, besides the ugli fruit tree–whose fruit was, indeed, ugly, and, in my opinion as a five- or six-year-old, tasted terrible, too–until right before we moved back to the USA. It was like someone told these Honduran trees the North American expatriates were leaving, so they could relax now or something. I don’t think we ever got to eat the bananas, but the mangoes seemed never ending. Mango sauce and mango pie and mango muffins and mangos and mangos and mangos. My mother used to say that everybody in the house got sick from eating so many mangos–except for me.
When I went to India in 1993, I learned the best way to peel a mango. Probably everybody knows this already, but I’m going to tell you, just in case. There’s a big sort of flat pit in the middle of a mango, so you slice down each side of it, as close to the pit as you can. Then you slice a grid in each of the half-spheres. You push the half-spheres inside out and, if you’re walking down the street eating a mango, which is one of the things we were doing in India in 1993, you just bite the squares off the peel, and then, when the peel has nothing more to offer, you unwrap the remaining strip of peel from the pit, and suck the rest of the fruit off of the pit itself. It’s tricky–you kind of need to use your teeth, but the pit is stringy and can get caught in them.
When I’m not walking down the street eating mango, but trying to prepare it for consumption at home, I slice the squares off the peel. It’s less messy, and ensures you get as much fruit as possible in your salad. Which I did when I had this salad this evening.