Tonight as I cutting up a fruit salad for tomorrow’s lunches, I found myself laughing (at our age we tend to either cry or laugh at any given time!) But this was pure amusement.

I found the pomegranate came with instructions on how to cut it and take out the seeds. Wow! This is technology. I’ve seen the same with mangoes – they come with directions. As desi (south Asian) fruits come to the West, it seems that people need to be told how to peel and eat them. Give me a break.

It took me two minutes to get all the yummy, juicy stuff out of the pom (we call them anaar). No doubt there were seeds all over my sink and I also found red spots on my chin, nose and hands as I was cheating and eating them as well. That’s part of the fun. Of course I didn’t follow the directions – they sound so silly.

My mind immediately went back to my childhood. First of all, fruits were seasonal and that was a good thing because they were fresh in every season – none of this refrigerated, injected stuff which looks good but has little taste. In winter we had blood red oranges, summer was mangoes and pomegranates usually came from Kandahar so it depended on transportation. We looked forward every season for the next, because in one season we would have our fill of the seasonal fruits. I can’t recall seeing kiwis or blueberries – in fact the other day we were trying to find a desi name for blueberries and could not come up with one.

In summer, after the rains it was mango season. Mangoes were never purchased in ones or twos. My father would come home from work with a sack full of mangoes and the whole house would be filled with the aroma of cahusa, saroli, anwar ratol and others. My mother would then dump them in a clean bucket full of water and ice, put a pinch of a pink powder which we called “pinky” but I am told it was a purifier for veggies and fruits. Then there was no holding back. We picked up the mango, used our fingers to soften the pulp (that’s quite an art but it’s a bit like the de-stress balls used here to let off steam), bit off the top nib and dared each other to how fast we could suck out the warm juicy pulp and juice. Once the mango was sucked dry, out popped the big seed which was licked to perfection, thrown in another pail and off to the next one and next. If guests were around, there would be some show of politeness by cutting up some mangoes, but we found mangoes are not really a social fruit to eat. You have to get down and dirty. There were no washing machines those days but who cared. Our clothes dripped with mango juice and I write this my mouth is watering with the remembrance of those un-inhibited mango sessions which are no longer popular.

An overdose of mangoes could lead to an upset stomach but milk was used as the soothing element afterwards. Oh and I remember milk and mangoes, ice cream and mangoes, fresh cream and mangoes…..yummmmmmmy! By end of season we had enough and were ready for the next season.

Raw mangoes were used for pickle and also to make a cooling soothing delicious drink called “panna” which we usually had in Ramzan to quench our thirst. There is also a curried vegetable made from raw mango.

Oranges were also bought in bulk – the word “sainkra” comes to mind, and I think it meant hundred  – so they came in crates of hundreds. Once again bucket, disinfest and then cut up into fours and for those of more titillating palates, sprinkled with salt and pepper and devoured.

The other day at work here in Toronto, I was unknowingly sprinkling salt and pepper on my fruit when my colleague saw me and went “yuck” – she could not comprehend the idea of putting salt on fruit. But in Mexico I was thrilled to see street vendors selling cut up fruits and veggies sprinkled with lemon and chillies – try it you might like it. I love it.






  • expatlogue says:

    Like your colleague, I too was baffled by the whole “salt on oranges” thing when I came across it while living with my in-laws. I did try it, but prefer my oranges unadulterated, despite being habitually liberal with the salt on other foods.

  • expatlogue says:

    Oh, and I haven’t had a proper Desi mango since I left the UK, two and a half years ago. I always said my idea of Jannah would be unlimited mangoes and lassi to live on!