Thursday, May 12, 2016

How do you eat your mangoes?




The other day I was watching my kids eating mangoes. The fruit is peeled, stones discarded, then diced into neat little cubes or slices (if I'm feeling lazy). I then leave it in the refrigerator to cool till we get on with lunch. Later, the kids pick the fruit off the plate with fruit forks or toothpicks.

Mangoes in Lucknow have always been plentiful. I had once stumbled upon this quote by Ghalib, Aam meethe hon aur bahut saare hon.

That's exactly how they always are here.

During the summer our cousins would come to stay with us. Each afternoon all six of us aged 4 to 10, would sit around a tub of mangoes out in the aangan. The tub would be full of water to keep the mangoes cool. We’d be dressed in the barest minimum - vests and slips - as we fished out the mangoes, oblivious to the heat, and competed at amassing the largest pile of guthlis. We’d peel the fruit tooth and nail, quite literally, and bite right into the pulp, delicious juice dripping from our hands, running down our chins and smearing our faces.

One of our favourites was the Lucknow Safeda. If you know anything about this particular variety you’ll know it isn’t meant to be pealed and cut at all. It is more juice than pulp and has to be sucked on, not eaten.

There’s a whole art to getting through this fruit and I’m not sure I’m equipped to explain. Let it suffice that it has to be handled with all the Lakhnawi nazakat you can muster. No, I’m not being a snob - the nazakat is crucial. The thing is the fruit has an exceptionally fragile skin. A little inelegant impatience and you’ll have the guthli shooting right out from the wrong end (of the fruit, of course) splattering you with juice and pulp.

Each time that would happen the expression on the face of the callous offender would be priceless, giving us hours of laughter. What’s worse, he would get an earful from his/her mum because mango stains are the devil’s own work when it comes to getting them off.

Anyway, once you’ve got down to the guthli without accident you scrape it off with your teeth and discard it. Finally you slurp off the remaining juice.

I am sure we weren’t the most sightly of sights, yet it was the perfect way to form strong bonds of shared memories. Perhaps that's why even though we don't meet, sometimes for years together, we can take up from right where we left off, the sweetness never varying quite like that of the dussehris, langadas and safeda.


Aam will always remain a very khaas part of my childhood memories.

31 comments:

  1. Your post evoked memories from my own childhood that was filled with similar fun and of course Mango shakes too featured in the fun with mangoes. I love the those fragile skinned, super-sweet mangoes that are meant to be eaten just the way you described.
    You nailed in with the last line. Happy mango season to you :)

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    1. Happy mango season to you too My Era. It's amazing how many different kinds of mangoes there are and how we all have memories attached to them.

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  2. Now, that was a visually delightful post, if there was one :)
    Aam is always Khaas !

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    1. That it certainly is. Thanks Sid.

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  3. Mom or dad would cut them into squares like you have mentioned but once in a blue moon I'd pick up a mango, shout out to everyone that I wouldn't be available for doing any kind of favors, answering phone calls or doorbells, and I'd dive right into it! Mango massacre ensued and I'd never even be sorry about it! :)

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    1. Lol! I just know what you mean. I do wonder thought what your mum has to say about this. You know what Anitha.. you need to start a blog. You have such a way with words.

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    2. Oh believe me, mom would be so happy about it as it would spare her the job of peeling, plating and placing the pieces before us(that just reminded me of Mr Popper's penguins :) ). it also meant she would not have to deal with too many 'super' ripe mangoes that had to be masqueraded as milkshakes. Yup, I'm pretty sure she was grateful for the 'mango massacre'. Oh well..at least until as Murphy says-"That doorbell shall ring and that phone will buzz..."

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    3. Ha ha right. BTW did you give the idea of blogging any thought?

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    4. One of my friends had suggested it to me. I guess it would be fun!

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  4. I love the energy and how powerfully evocative this post is Tulika :) Makes me want to grab an Alphonso right now and dig in!

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  5. Ah Tulika. You don't know what beautiful memories you kindled within me. Though l originally belong to Unnao, l haven't visited it since 2 decades since the death of my paternal grandparents and mother. But that ritual of eating Safeda from the tub is crystal clear in front of my eyes. My Nana had lost his teeth so that was the only mango he cherished. For some reason we also used to call it chuswa. And those Dassheris, my mouth waters in remembrance.

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    1. Hey Rachna happy to have reconnected you to a bit of your childhood. It is this sharing of memories that makes me want to keep blogging. Oh and the name 'chuswa' does make sense, doesn't it? As for the Dussehris - even the Alphonso comes nowhere close.

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  6. Exactly the way we ate! And Lucknowa safeda is my favorite mango.

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    1. Mine too. it's a pity schools open in June and I'm never here during the peak season.

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  7. yes. nowadays, it is all about the neat little cubes of mango. but childhood was quite different. grandma used to select these mangoes, quite juicy, squishy ones, wash them and give them to us. we had to squeeze them carefully till the mango was almost juiced without the skin coming off. then punch a hole and suck/sip the goodness. I think you're talking of the same experience. :) my sister and I used to make a mess those days, the juice dripping onto our t-shirts. so it was always given to us before we bathed, lest we get it on clean clothes. :D

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    1. That's exactly how it was. You sound like an expert at this art :-). As for the mess - that's always the mums' worry. In fact I wonder if I would keep my cool if I see the twins with saffron stains all over them.

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  8. Eating a mango hasn't been my cup of tea, but at times I do dig in! The threads get stuck in my teeth...what do you call those fibre-like thingys? But after reading your superbly-.descriptive post I am definitely going to grab a king (mango IS the king of fruits, isn't it ;-))

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    1. Ooh a non-believer, are you? Nope that won't do. This just means that you haven't found your match yet. Not all mangoes are for everyone but there is one for each one :-). Not all varieties are thready/stringy. All you need to do is to find that gooey, pulpy, juicy one.

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  9. I love mangoes and how I eat them? Whole. I just peel them off and dig my teeth into the pulp. No slicing, dicing whatever. That's how I love it. And you are right - mangoes from lucknow - dussheri, langda, chausa..oh man.

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    1. That's exactly how it should be done Parul :-).

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  10. Now thats some nostalgia overdose there. Yes, mangoes do create some sweet memories for all of us.

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    1. Sure they do. They were an inherent part of summers during my growing up years.

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  11. just the description of eating Safeda is making my mouth water. It's winter here and no chance of getting a Mango. I love the raw ones too, mixed with chilli and salt :D

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    1. Oh yes the raw ones are delicious too. In Pune those are the ones we eat most often these days.

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  12. I hope I don't get stoned for this, but I have never really been fond of mangoes. I am not averse to them, I like them just fine. As much as I like a banana or an apple. I know, I know..the comparison is unthinkable to many, but well, it's the truth.

    For several years, my folks introduced me as 'the one who doesn't like mangoes' to many many people - it seemed to be an important enough aspect of my personality to be revealed to relative strangers. :P

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    1. Banana and mango in the same breath - Blasphemy!

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  13. I'm happy to report that I still eat mangoes - when I do - in the old fashioned way! And whoever said that alphonso mangoes are the best? They haven't tasted dussehris, langadas, safedas or himayathis for sure! :)

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    1. Ooh yes.. you're my kind of person.

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  14. Aah! This made me smile and brought back so many memories. We used to eat mangoes JUST the way you mentioned with cousins at granny's house. Some fond and fun memories. And it's all forks and cubes now-a-days...

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