Maybe it’s because I’m about to finish college. Maybe it’s because I just turned twenty-one. I don’t know what it is, but for some reason I’ve gotten the urge lately to try almost everything (legal) that I’ve never tried before.
One item on the list was to eat a mango.
Part of my recent healthy-eating kick has been to make a meal out of fruit-and-veggie purees, often listed under the cutesy yet exalted title, “smoothie.” This has involved trying to combine fruits, vegetables, and yogurt in way that approximate the taste of other foods. For example, it is entirely possible to get carrot juice to taste like an orange creamsicle. It’s even possible to combine bananas, blueberries, spinach, and kale (kale!) in such a way to make it taste like mint ice cream. It’s like alchemy, but with fruit.
I went grocery shopping with my mother. As a budding smoothie-foodie, this may or may not have been the wisest choice. I found myself in the produce section for most of the trip, and not just because Mother kept sending me back to get things. No, I was mesmerized by the fruit. And I noticed there were mangoes.
One of the smoothie recipes I’d found (yes, they make recipes for these things) called for oranges and a mango. So I picked up a mango—an odd, bicolored bulbous thing that looks like a pear having an allergic reaction to itself—and gave it a squeeze. I have no clue what a ripe mango is supposed to feel like. This puppy was hard as a rock, so I figured it wasn’t ripe yet, and bought it.
It kept company with the oranges in a bowl on top of the refrigerator from Friday until today. Out of curiosity, I reached up into the bowl and found a rather squishy mango at my fingertips. I don’t know about your personal experience, but I know that in mine, squishy fruit equals rotten fruit. There are few things more depressing to me than a rotten piece of fruit—all that potential delisciousness gone to waste.
Bracing myself, I pulled it out of the bowl and looked at it. It still looked like a pear with asthma, as opposed to a brown pulpy mess, which was what I’d expected. Still, I thought, I had better eat it now before it starts attracting vultures.
Grabbing my trusty paring knife, I plunged it into the little bugger and cut one pivoting slice around the thing’s pit. It felt like cutting an avocado or a peach. The first mistake I made, I now realize, was assuming that the mango would behave like a peach. Rule One about mangoes: a mango is not a peach.
I realized this after trying to tug the two halves apart. They wouldn’t budge. Yes, I managed to wring out a puddle of yellowy-orange juice onto the countertop, but that fruit wouldn’t let go of itself. Since it became clear at this point that there was no tidy way of finishing my mango experiment, I did what any self-respecting twenty-one year old with a fruit fetish would do: I put the knife down and sunk my teeth into that mango like a vegetarian Dracula.
Rule Two about mangoes: if ever you want to do a mango-based facial, all you have to do is eat the mango. Those suckers are explosive. In seconds, I had mango up to my hairline. There was a mango-juice Niagara Falls coursing down my chin and cascading to my elbows. There were stringy bits of mango between every single one of my teeth, molars included. I was covered in what felt like head-to-toe mangoeyness, dripping in sweet, yellow-orange, and utterly delicious sap. Yes sir, that mango went where no mango has gone before.
I’m positive that I was doing something wrong. The mango was probably overripe. Or maybe it wasn’t ripe enough. Who knows. I grew up in the land of apples and peaches and strawberries—where everything grows in tidy little packages that are easily eaten off the stem. Not so much, it seems, with something exotic like a mango.
I’d hardly call it a failed experiment. Before today, I never might have thought of eating fruit as anything more than a way of being healthy. It is a way of eating healthy—but more importantly, eating fruit can be fun. A mess, absolutely. But something as mundane and necessary as eating healthy food can be a whole lot of fun. This thought is a little revolutionary: who knows what else might pop out of our kitchen now that I’ve discovered food can be fun?
Life needs to have both a little of the mundane and a little of the fantastic—but what law says we have to separate the two?