It is that time of the year when every self-respecting home or restaurant in India boasts of mango dishes or drinks. Yes, the mango season is almost here. An advertisement on TV brought a smile to my face the other day- a man is crazy about mangoes. He has planted a mango tree in his yard and keeps nagging it to give him mangoes. He sports a printed shirt with huge mangoes on it and is heard to mutter 'Aam' all the time. And then his son brings him 'Mazaa', a mango drink, to end this mango mania. I bet many Indians identify with this mango-lust. They love mango-pulp (aamras) with lunch or dinner, they love to slice and eat mangoes, or just suck them, eat with icecream or have mango-flavored milk-shakes or sundaes.
Call me quirky(after all we all have ours)but since childhood, mango has never agreed with my system, so I've stayed away from them. Infact, I'm immune to its so-called lure and fail to appreciate this all-consuming thirst for mangoes the moment the mercury starts rising in March every year. I remember that when I told him this, my husband had looked at me as if I had grown a horn on my head right there! When we used to live in the States, my husband missed the mangoes there.(US was not importing mangoes from India then) Seeing how much he craved the fruit, I once bought ones imported from Mexico. It was only after seeing the disgust on his face on tasting them that I learned that Indian mangoes, especially of the Alphonso(or Haafus) variety, are something to die for. For those in the US currently, there is good news. US decided to import Indian mangoes in 2008. Since the US prefers irradiation to get rid of an insect pest mango seed weevils and fruit fly from the fruits; paving the way for safe mango exports this year, the irradiation facility of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre(BARC) at Lasalgaon in Maharastra's Nasik district has begun its operations this April.
However, when my brother visited the UK a couple of years ago, he had an entirely contrasting experience. He is another mango maniac and I had actually toyed with the idea of sending him a crate of mangoes last summer. However, he informed me that he was enjoying the best of mangoes in the UK - infact he had bought a basket for 7 pounds and it was the best money he ever spent! Looks like UK has no qualms importing the succulent alphonsos from India.
Cutting back to the motherland, a friend of mine always makes it a point to drive to Devgadh(7-8 hours drive) in the sweltering heat of April every year to get the best rate on Alphoso mangoes. For the uninitiated, Devgadh alphonso is the king of mangoes and eating it is regarded as a status symbol among many. It is also the most expensive and hence the sojourn to get them cheaper at the origin. Last to last year, he got no less than 30 dozen mangoes, of which he sold about 5 dozen to friends and consumed the rest with his family!
OH the fragrance, the color, the firmness, the TASTE of the Alphonso! The mango season being delayed on account of untimely rains in March, some people have actually stooped to eating other varieties(poor cousins of the Alphonso) such as Badaam and Langda this year. How the mighty have fallen! But soon, the king will arrive in all majesty and then all the kings will not hesitate to become 'aam aadmi' :)
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