I've never been all that thrilled by mangoes. But over the years I've had a half-dozen Indian and Indian-American housemates, and they have all been insistent that you can't get good mangoes in the United States. They mostly had good taste in food, so I'm willing to believe them. So imagine my delight this morning to read an opinion essay in the Times by Madhur Jaffrey, writer of one of my favorite cookbooks, Madhur Jaffrey Indian Cooking. Here are the first few paragraphs:
WHATEVER anyone else might say, America's new nuclear and trade pact with India is a win-win deal. India gets nuclear fuel for its energy needs and America, doing far better in what might be called a stealth victory, finally gets mangoes.Looking forward to this...
Not those pleasantly hued but lifeless rocks that pass as mangoes in most American grocery stores. Definitely not the fibrous, unyielding, supersized Florida creations that boast long shelf life and easy handling and shipping but little else. They might hint at possibilities but provide no satisfaction.
No. What America will be getting is the King of Fruit, Indian masterpieces that are burnished like jewels, oozing sweet, complex flavors acquired after two millenniums of painstaking grafting. I can just see them arriving at the ports: hundreds of wide baskets lined with straw, the mangoes nestling in the center like eggs lolling in their nests.These mangoes will be seasonal. Americans will learn to wait for them, just as Indians do. They cannot be pushed to grow in hothouses. Indian mango trees, many of them hundreds of years old (and some reputed to be thousands of years old) need to breathe the same free, fresh air Indians breathe and live through India's three main seasons: summer, the monsoons and winter.