The absence of spring, an unprecedented spike in temperatures in addition to water shortages and windstorms this year have led mango harvesters to believe that their crop’s production would drop significantly ( by almost 50 percent). Suffice to say this news left Pakistanis- both within and outside the country- severely disappointed. For those in Pakistan, the promise of mangoes makes the long sweltering summer months bearable.
According to food historians, the name mango has most likely been derived from the Malayam manna, which was later adopted by the Portuguese as manga in the 15th century. Mangoes have qualities that transcend their unparalleled sweet taste. Rightly referred to as the ‘King of Fruits’, mangoes contain high amounts of Vitamins C and folate as well as moderate amounts of Vitamins A and B as well as copper which helps in the generation of red blood cells.
A succulent assortment of Langra, Sindhri, Anwar Ratol, Chaunsa, Desheri, Himsager and Sammar Bahist, to name a few of the desi aams (mangoes) are easily accessible in Pakistan. During summers, the dining table is a testament to the significant place mangoes have in Pakistani cooking. For many people, mangoes mark the first meal of the day, while the paratha- mango combination is considered a breakfast delight. Lunch and dinner is incomplete without homemade mango achaar (mango pickle) and of course, mango is the comme il faut, quintessential postprandial dessert.
The love for mangoes is chronicled throughout history
It is said that in 500 BC, Buddha was given a mango tree for mediation and repose. Ibn Batuta has also written about mangoes in his travels. Emperor Shah Jahan’s appetite for mangoes can be seen in how he had his son Aurangzeb locked up because the latter had hid all the palace’s mangoes for himself. The most passionate mango lover to have lived on earth, Mirza Ghalib said that “there are only two essential points about mangoes – they should be sweet, and they should be plentiful.”
In his book ‘The Last Mughal’, William Dalrymple quoted the following, defining Ghalib’s love affair with mangoes. He writes, during summer nights Ghalib would ‘sit down to eat the mangoes when my food was fully digested, and I tell you bluntly, I would eat them until my belly was bloated and I could hardly breathe. Even now, I eat them at the same time of day, but not more than ten or twelve, or if they are of the large kind, only six or seven.’
The mango was/and still is seen as a symbol of fortuity and prosperity
South Asian countries are famous for their mango diplomacy. On a visit to China in 1968, Mian Arshad Hussain, Pakistan’s then Foreign Minister presented Chairman Mao with a crate of mangoes which the latter sent to workers who had been stationed at Tsinghua University to quell student protests during the Cultural Revolution. This was seen as a powerful gesture in support of the workers and celebrated as Mao’s compassion. For the Chinese, the mango had never been seen before and there was an obsession to preserve what was viewed as Mao’s love for his workers. To this day, many see the mangoes as marking the end of the Cultural Revolution.
Here is a quick mango mousse recipe, which can help satisfy those cravings.
Mangoes – 3
Condensed milk – 2/3 can
Cream – 1 cup
Fresh lemon juice – 1/2 lemon
Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.
The author is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad ( ISSI) with her prime area of focus being the Middle East and North Africa. She is a LUMS and Warwick alumnus. Her work has appeared in Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye and Middle East Monitor and the Express Tribune.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.