All Indian mango lovers think their love for the glorious fruit is more passionate and special than anyone else. In my much younger days, I used to be that Indian. Now my view is that of a satisfied lover.
Having skipped almost all mango seasons in India since 1999 I have had to improvise my affair with the fruit here in America. Unlike Indians, Americans do not nearly eroticize the mango. It is just one of the many fruits on the shelves of the supermarkets. I have seen deep red plums and flaming pinkish orange nectarines get picked in the face of sulking yellow mangoes. However, never having been treated as the “king of fruits”, mangoes in America do not feel slighted by this neglect. I do my bit to show special love to them whenever I go to buy groceries. I once picked up a particularly ripe Mexican mango and flaunted it in front of the plums right next to it and said, “Here in your face, plums!” A fellow shopper, an American woman, was first intrigued and then mighty amused by my odd behavior. “You must love mangoes,” she said. “Where do I start?” I said and to her relief I didn’t start. She got my drift, of course.
I have regularly consumed the two most popular Mexican mango varieties—the Ataulfo and the Tommy Atkins. The Ataulfo has a thin pit and generous flesh that has very little fiber. The flesh’s brilliant golden yellow color is among the best I have seen, including in India. It is flavorful and strikingly sweet. The Tommy Atkins, on the other hand, is a bigger, more fibrous variety which can be surprisingly delicious. It has a bigger pit. It is only recently that I have been able to develop an acute olfactory about these mangoes. I can smell ten and get eight right in terms of their ripeness and when to cut.
All mango lovers have their own etiquette and quirks about eating them. Mine is to scoff at those who suck on the pit in an unseemly fashion. I detest it. It is thoroughly inelegant. I grew up in a family that insisted on buying the best mangoes (Are there any other kind really?) and eating them throughout the season. In my immediate family no one sucks on the pit because that really sucks.
I have been having the Tommy Atkins for the last two nights and have been pleasantly surprised to find how luscious and devoid of fiber they have been. I know there are those who like the mango fiber. I am not one of those. The best mango flesh is one that completely melts at the tip of your tongue as if it was never really there. The Mexican mangoes may not have the kind of cult status that some of the Indian varieties enjoy but at their best they can rival the flavor and taste of the best Indian mangoes. Take it from someone who regards himself as next only to Mirza Ghalib when it comes to understanding mangoes.
Since I have mentioned Ghalib I might as well conclude this post with this impromptu poetic tribute of mine.
नाम से आम है
पर खास रसों का जाम है
यह वोह फल है जिस में
खूबियाँ तमाम है