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The love of cities and the mystique of mangos

July 21st, 2004 · 3 Comments

Anil Dash wrote a wisful and passionate farewell to the city he loves and left and in the midst of his memories he described what a mango can mean.

In the little town where I’d grown up, mangos had only shown up in the local grocery store a few years earlier, being considered an ethnic food. My mother had brought them home for us regularly, partially in celebration of their availability, but mostly because they were delicious. And here, now, was this fruit in my hand, in the middle of the night. I’d always been a night owl, but this somehow seemed like a sign, that this crate was being unpacked at three in the morning. This city was about exactly that kind of potential.

While I can’t claim to share his affection for the City, I appreciate the significance of exotic produce. His writing evoked my own memories of mangos and their sweet mystique.

Mangos were something I discovered later in life: I’m not sure I tasted one until after college. As a kid living in Seattle suburbs, I knew them as tropical juice in a can.

When Ted and I lived in Rhode Island, mangos were rare. One of my friends in the lab would sometimes enjoy one, a gift sent from her mother. She would sit at lunch and peel it, delight on her face. I watched her slice the flesh away from the white center. It was as much a discovery for me as the experiments we did in the laboratory. Perhaps this was when I first tasted a mango although I would have felt guilty consuming any piece of her treasure.

If a mango were to make it to Star Market, it was a rare moment. It would sit on the edge of the produce section, alone and hidden, like an awkward leftover Easter egg or a tropical songbird that had made an error in migration, seeming out of place and out of season. Then again I remember most produce in Providence then was irregular and imported, the strawberries nearly rotten by the time they arrived on the truck from California.

Moving to Silicon Valley gave mangos new meaning. At the Asian markets, I discovered I could buy multiple ones for a dollar, selecting what I wanted from a massive pile of red and green fruit. I could buy yellow ones too. Oh the miracles that awaited me in the grocery stores, only a few minutes walk from our rented townhouse. Red ripe red Mexican mangos! I’d serve them when friends came to town, the way a rich man might flout his wealth, boasting of abundance.

Here in Washington, even on this island in Puget Sound, I can still find mangos. Perhaps not as plentiful or affordable as the Californian ones for sale, but still a luxurious treat. With three daughters, I find that one mango no longer makes a meal. Perhaps two. Or three.

Now that I’ve peeled dozens of them and eaten a few, I still find a mystique in the fruit. There’s still something amazing about a mango. The decadence still brings delight, reminding me of my friend’s love for the rare fruit, and the first time I tasted one.

I know he’ll never love San Francisco the way he loves New York for nothing can take the place of a first love. Yet I wish Anil that same thrill, that potential and passion he found once on a city sidewalk in the middle of the night. May he have plenty of mangos and an abundance of goodness in his new West Coast life.

Tags: journal

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kris Hasson-Jones // Jul 21, 2004 at 11:08 am

    I like papayas better.

  • 2 Katherine // Jul 24, 2004 at 1:15 pm

    I like mangos. I especially like to slice off half of it (without peeling it), then make criss-cross gashes across that half and turn it inside out until it looks like a blunt porcupine…have you ever seen that? I can find over a half dozen references to it online, but no photos (and I don’t have a mango on hand today, oh well).

    Unfortunately, my kids used to like mango and for some reason have regressed into not liking it anymore (for now). David often has a mango lassi drink at Indian restaurants.

  • 3 Julie // Jul 25, 2004 at 12:04 am

    No I haven’t seen the porcupine. Hmmm. But I can imagine it…sounds like a tasty-but-not-prickly creature 🙂 How did you learn how to cut a mango? Like many things in life, I tried to figure it out on my own…that was before I Googled everything…!