Mon | Jun 25, 2018

How to really eat a St Julian (a.k.a. Julie) mango

Published:Sunday | September 1, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Tanya Leach-Haye, Contributor

When I emigrated to Vancouver, I underestimated how much I'd miss my favourite Jamaican foods, especially fruits.

I'd never given it much thought because before emigrating, I had always heard that Jamaicans living abroad would, surreptitiously or magically, locate a West Indian community where they'd meet people from 'yard' (yardies) and once they found yardies, they'd point them in the direction of anything Caribbean they sought. So, I had assumed that I'd discover where to find my favorite foods when I was ready.

But what I didn't realise was how little West Indian influence there was in Vancouver. As there was no such West Indian community per se, I learnt that when it came to getting my favourite foods, I'd have three options: I'd have to do without or I'd have to be willing to 'pay an arm and a leg' to get it delivered to my home or I'd have to drive for many miles to get the foods I loved and missed, the comfort foods. So, the choice was clear: Whenever I felt the need for comfort foods, I braced for the journey as I made the trip to another city in the Lower Mainland and found all the foods I loved. Well, almost. I found everything except mangoes. Julie mangoes. Sure, I found mangoes for Pakistan and Chile, but none were Julie mangoes and none were from Jamaica.

As much as I appreciated getting bun and cheese for Easter, drinking sorrel at Christmas, and eating rice and gungo peas, ackee and salt fish, and fish and bammy all year, whenever I wanted in Vancouver, my taste buds pined for Julie mangoes.

Whenever I got desperate enough, I would award myself the consolation prize of a foreign mango, but I'd eat it critically. (Last time I did, my husband looked up from reading the papers, and in an annoyed voice reminded me that I didn't have to eat it!) Anyway, anyone who has eaten a Julie mango knows that mangoes from anywhere else in the world pale in comparison. (And I don't think I'm biased!) Once you've eaten a Jamaican mango, your taste buds will never be the same again. Never.

And my recent trip to Jamaica reminded me about that absolute ecstasy involved in partaking of this fruit. As I sunk my teeth into the first mango I ate last month, it occurred to me that eating a mango should not be taken lightly. It should be a celebrated occasion. One must prepare for it; one can't just rush into it. One must savour every moment. There is a process involved. A deliberate process. And that's what I want to share with you. Here are the steps.

Recognizing that eating a Jamaican mango is a joyous delight, you want to be sure to:

  • Clear your schedule. Yes, that's what I said. Turn off your phone, and find a quiet place nearby the kitchen sink and make sure you won't be disturbed. It's just you and your mango, preferably — mangoes.
  • Pick up the mango and examine it for ripeness and dents. You don't want it to be overripe or it will be too soft and slippery going down your throat. And you don't want it to have dents, as that will mean you'll have soft, slippery parts or it may be spoilt.
  • Wash your mango once you are satisfied with its outward appearance. Wash it lovingly with soap because you may chew the skin a bit.
  • Pat it dry. Don't rub. Pat. (Why? Hmmm ... not sure. Just seems more loving?)
  • Cup it in your hands and smell it. Take a deep breath. Then take another breath. Smile. You are about to embark on a journey. A delightful journey and you want to be prepared, so get your Zen on.
  • Lean over the sink. You can't eat a mango with a straight back. I'm sorry. You just can't. You have to lean over, and it must be over a sink. Why? Because it's going to get messy, but messy in a good way.
  • Take a sharp knife and peel all the skin from the mango. Don't discard this skin, though. Put the skin on a plate. Put the plate aside.
  • Bite in. Bite in and exhale. Allow the juice from the mango to hit the roof of your mouth. Keep it there for a moment, then swallow slowly. Then pick up the momentum.
  • Bite. Chew. Swallow. Bite. Chew. Swallow. Then repeat several times until the seed is left naked.
  • Suck the seed, eyes closed. Suck it dry. Suck it till you feel the air ... the hollowness ... inside the seed. Then put it down. It's done.
  • Reach for the peeled skin that you had put on the plate and suck on the skin. Suck. Bite it. Chew it up.
  • Lick the mango juice on your fingers. Lick away any juice that may have run down your hands during the process. Leave no juice untouched. None. You are now fully done.
  • Snap out of it. You've just had an exhilarating experience. Allow yourself a moment or two to just bask in the mango's goodness.
  • Smile slowly. You've just experienced a bit of heaven. Consider yourself lucky to have had such an awesome experience. Try — hard though it may be — to get on with the rest of your life. this is as good as it gets.