Mango Nationalism

This mango business is no joke! Despite my best efforts and those of my fellow mutineer Ennis to steer the whole mango conversation in absurd and salacious directions, it seems that out among the high and mighty, the triumphal return of the Indian mango to the American market is proving to be a very serious deal. Mango Diplomacy is being discussed at the White House, courtesy of none other than

Raghubir Goyal of the India Globe held up a basket wrapped in colored cellophane. “Mangoes from India arrived, and here is a basket for President Bush,” the reporter offered. “My question is: What message does mangoes bring, as far as India-U.S. relations are concerned?”

In return Snow had only this:

For one of the few times during the briefing, Snow smiled. “I don’t know. It is my first mango-related inquiry,” he admitted.

Undaunted by this callous official indifference, however, Mango Nationalism is, um, ripening among proud Indians and Indo-Americans here, if submissions from Fareed Zakaria, David Davidar, and Shashi Tharoor to SAJAforum are any indication. Apparently Tharoor thinks that American ignorance of true mangoes, while surely just as grave as our ignorance of cricket, is a more redeemable condition:

After years of penury, where what passed for mangoes in American supermarkets was a travesty of the term, we at last have the real thing! I used to believe that true mango lovers could sue American groceries for false advertising — the tasteless, fibrous, tart and flavor-challenged fruit they sold did not deserve the name of mango. Now we should urge every American we know to try a real Indian mango. They’ll never think of mangoes the same way again.

Full quotes from all three eminences plus a comment thread here. Mango pride is sweeping across the land. Will there be a backlash?

51 thoughts on “Mango Nationalism

  1. So which is the All-American fruit? One will be needed for the backlash…

  2. Do you have Rubicon juice drinks in the States?

    yes, they can be found at your local indian store.

  3. from the SAJAforum article.

    My mom was given the choice of sitting there and eating them all in the customs area or dumping them…

    tough choice.. wonder what happened!

  4. Ha Ha! Rubicon exotic juice drinks are always popular with the desi and black kids…and yes mango flava is one of the best.

  5. Hmm, upon reflection, an All-American fruit may not be needed after all.

    One could, if needed, tie the mangoes in with the nuke deal. The final proof of India’s duplicity, y’know. Not only do we have the temerity to want to reprocess the fuel, and leave some plants out of IAEA’s inspections, we have been keeping our mangoes away from the US. The last ought to be causes belli after a decent alphonso or langda is eaten….

  6. So which is the All-American fruit? One will be needed for the backlash…

    apple. as american as apple pie.

  7. I knew of the attachment to apple pie but had no idea it extended to the apple as well. Ta. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. i love me my mangos!!! my family loves them their mangos! it’s such a big deal that phone calls to india revolve around our ability to get mangos, and what kinds of mangos. the lack of good mangos this season is so frustrating to my parents, they’re willing to have my 95-year old ba try to smuggle some in when she returns from her annual winter trip from india. we’re risking customs and her confinement for MANGOS!!!

  9. I’m never one to turn down a good mango, or two for that matter.

    I even grope them sometimes.

  10. I’m feeling bad for the poor Mexican mango, fated to be utterly marginalized now. Though vastly inferior, they at least brought back memories of all the childhood trips to the homeland, and once in a while, when the gods were smiling, hinted at that numinous sweetness that makes the Indian mango the king of all fruit.

    Jai Hind!

  11. If Indian mangoes taste anything like Zimbabwean mangoes, I’ll be ecstatic. I can only hope that this Mango Movement reaches my far-flung Midwestern supermarkets, because for too long have I languished and gnashed my teeth in frustration at these bland, unhappy doppelgangers. Death to the Mango Masquerade! Viva Mango Pride!

  12. Man.. My mom used to make this really awesome mango lassi that was mixed with vanilla ice cream.. It was so good..

    I don’t think Indian mangoes are any tastier than mexican mangoes.. I have had both..

  13. Sadaiyappan, you traitor.

    There are of course some Mexican and Haitian mangoes that are acceptable (and the desi groceries on the east coast have a knack for tracking them down) but I can only assume that you’ve never had a real Ratnagiri alphonso, if you had you wouldn’t be so blasphemous ๐Ÿ™‚

    And Tharoor et al have every right to be nationalistic about mangoes. Dammit, they’re one of the few objective universal things we can be proud of.

  14. Thanks,SP

    I was outraged and about to point out to Sadaiyappan that he has obviously never tasted the King of mangoes – the Ratnagiri Apus. Oh, the many, many times that I have shelled out $$ for mangoes that looked delicious but tasted NOTHING like the real thing.

    I’m with Tharoor on this at least . Mango Mania makes me miss my motherland !

  15. Alphonso ko goli maaro. Banganapalli is da best! Rasalu for the suckers. Let the mango wars begin! Like Coke Vs. Pepsi in India, it’s going to be Malgova and Banganapalli and Alphonso fighting for domination of the US market.

  16. I think much is being made of the significance and symbolism of mango trade. However, enough can’t be made of the actual mangoes in this whole deal. After years of trying/coaxing mangoes from costco, grocery stores, elsewhere, and ever so bitterly being disappointed at the crap that passes for mangoes in the States, I’d given up on ever tasting the fruit gold in the USA. I’m hopeful again.

    However, I’m real concerned that in order to account for the time between plucking and consumption, the fruit maybe being plucked too soon for all the enzymes to kick in and do their alchemy. Due to lack of temp control in Indian markets, the fruit you get is typically nearly completely ripe before its taken, and is typically available to buy within a couple of days in most places, thus ensuring a rapturous experience ๐Ÿ™‚

    I have fond memories of growing up in India in a terrifically foodie family where in summers we’d have these mango sessions – nothing but mangoes and cold milk for lunch!! We’d buy and cool the best specimens amongst the various varieties from a day before, then lay ’em out in trays at lunch time – dashehri, chusva, langda, chausa, neelam, totapuri…..aaaaah! Then we’d slice ’em, pulp ’em as appropriate and share rounds after rounds of the different varieties, all the while commenting on the subtle and not-so-subtle differences in taste, texture etc. sort of like patrons at a ‘mushaira’ saying wah-wah after each poem!! I remember having yellow/orange fingernails as a result of handling too many mangoes for too long ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. This Mango Monopolistic Monomania is getting out of hand! Mangoes are grown all over the place, yes, in all countries from Pakistan to the Phillipines and then across the water, even in Hawaii (which I didn’t know until yesterday), and then in Brazil, Mexico and elsewhere. And even in India, there are so many regional varieties to be proud of. The whole publicity blitz is so well-coordinated, from NYT to the wikipedia, that they even do etymological somersaults in wiki – claiming that the Portuguese called the appoos ‘Alphonso’, rather than the other way round, which sounds more logical. Perspective, please ๐Ÿ˜›

  18. hoping the Indian mango retains its flavor and texture in the 7-10,000 mile journey, not to mention time spent in distribution centers, planes, and trucks before making it to our food outlets. I wonder if mangos will taste different at JFK or whatever thier port of entry is, vs. at my local indian store. Shudder what if they taste just like mexican mangos after all the travel/storage??

  19. I love me some mangoes but I’m really hoping that once Indian mangoes come the US, causing Americans finally fully embrace the mango, we’ll see some sorely needed technological innovation. As a 31 year old, I’m still way to dependent on my mom to cut up my mangoes for me…when will they develop an easy to use mango slicing/dicing apparatus?

  20. I’m going mad with anticipation here! When are Indian mangoes reaching the West Coast?? Anyone know?! When??? AAHHH!

    Maintain, maintain. Deep breath. Hold it together, DJ.

    OK, I’m cool.

    For the record, I would normally cringe at the idea of putting something named “Alphonso” anywhere near my mouth, but all this hype (three posts?) and over-sexualization is proving to be too much for this mango virgin. Has anyone picked one up yet? What’re they going going for? Pics, people, I need pics.

  21. Wish I was in India.. one reason to head back!

    The early Portuguese explorers took to calling the Hapoos “Aphoos” and later, “Alphonso”. (known in Asia under the original name, Hapoos)

    Guess that explains why I have never seen the “Alphanso” in Indian markets.

  22. I’m never one to turn down a good mango, or two for that matter. I even grope them sometimes.

    he he ..Reminded me of Bend it like Beckham ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Oh Raghubir Goyal, he never fails with his comic relief. How long has he been in the White House Press Corps?

  24. Just wait until the greenhouse effect takes hold, and you’ll have competition from Swedish mango! (Mmm… roast Swedish moose stuffed with mango…) ;-P

  25. I think alphonsos are overated.

    Yes, they smell better than other Indian mangoes, but it seemes like all their energy is spent in smelling good rather than tasting better. Sort of like incadecsent light-bulbs, where most of the energy is used in generating heat rather than generating light.

  26. Also try the Badami.. available in Bangalore and possibly other places.. is certainly in the top 5 (for me). Anybody else here had it?

  27. (1) Chaunsa (2) Langra (3) Ratol (4) Alphonso (5) Dasayree

    No Banganapalli? Or Rasalu? Or even the infamous Banglura? It’s a time for a nice North-South throwdown, I think! ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. The mangoes in standard American supermarkets are so awful not only because they are not Indian, but because they are meant for serious shipping, storage, and shelf-life. This will no doubt improve the availability of good mangoes in New York and Chicago, but I wonder if it will trickle down? Also I wonder if we’ll ever see good juicy rasalu even in NYC? Plus, this presumably will not prevent you from still having to consume your personal stash at Customs. Personal importation of any unprocessed agricultural products from anywhere has always been a no-no. I’ve seen Indian families knocking back dozens of mangoes while an Ethiopian man tried to finish off several pounds of dates before leaving the area. Homemade mango pickle (and other types of acchar and kabob) seem to be fine, though.

  29. I’ve seen Indian families knocking back dozens of mangoes

    That explains the long lines and clogged bathrooms in-flight.

  30. People

    Growing up, I lived in Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, UP, Punjab, and Maharashtra and take it from this mango fanatic.

    The best mangoes dasayrees in the North and alphonsos in Maharashtra.

    Dasayrees are sucking mangoes and there is little grace in eating them (while eating a good, ripe dasayree, the juice should run down your arms). Alphonsos are delicate, cutting up mangoes and very lah di da to eat but have a delicious delicate taste and fragrance.

    I’m actually very worried about how the Indian mangoes will take their long travel to the US.


  31. The mangoes in standard American supermarkets are so awful not only because they are not Indian, but because they are meant for serious shipping, storage, and shelf-life.

    I’ve never really thought of the mangoes in American supermarkets as ‘awful’ – in fact, going in with a ‘show-me’ attitude, I’ve always been pleasantly surprized by Brazilian mangoes. All this rush to bring Indian mangoes into the US could make Indian mangoes exactly like the supermarket mangoes that you caricature – through genetic modification and what not – if it’s not happening to Brazilian mangoes that much as yet, it may be because Brazil is a lot closer, and shipping and storage requirements are not as demanding. The mango agreement may be a token US concession to, er, sweeten the inevitable compromises on the way to the nuclear 123 agreement (the mango eating at the Embassy coincided with Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon’s visit). Besides, let’s think of the folks in India too. Let the Indian government subsidize development of new internal markets, not exports to the US.

  32. The Mango variety shows again how varied India is. I grew up in India and some of the Mango variety mentioned here were unknown to me (till now)

    1 Alfonso

    2 Kesar

  33. Mango is vunderful, but vat about my beloved jackfruit? Vill it be coming too?

  34. We mutineers should start a new group: Mango Appreciation Non Governmental Organization.

    Our mission would be to popularize mangoes among Americans. Our aim would be to teach Americans how to tell apart different varieties of mangoes and how to best enjoy them. We could hold mango tasting events and create a class of mango connaisseurs. For popularizing mangoes in American culture, we could have celebrities endorse the fruit and possibly get movie placements. We could send Colbert a basket of mangoes every day of the month. He would surely mention it then! We could also come up with a sexual terms related to mangoes, something like the popular ‘dirty sanchez’.

  35. This mango business is no joke!

    hell yeah it’s no joke. i’m probably coming into the conversation a bit late. so i’m sure you’ve all heard of litchis and guavas being imported fom india, too, right? did anyone throw stones at mango and amrood trees as a kid in india? that was really fun.

    and of course the best aams, amroods and litchis be from benaras, you dig? thats where you really need to import them jons from.

  36. I knew about quite a few different varieties of Indian mango, but these threads have been eye-openers…there is just so much mango diversity out there. I’m sure the names listed so far are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve heard Multan in Pakistan also has an amazing type of mango which is like a local delicacy. Any Pakistanis and Bangladeshis want to tell us some names of your best mangoes? Sri Lankans?

    Anyway, is it definite that many different varieties of Indian mango are coming to the US, or is it just Alphonso? I think I need to go on a recon mission to Iselin/Edison, NJ and see what the word on the street is. If Patel Bros. or Sabzi Mandi don’t know, NO ONE knows.

  37. shlok:

    : did anyone throw stones at mango and amrood trees as a kid in india? that was really fun. and of course the best aams, amroods and litchis be from benaras, you dig? thats where you really need to import them jons from.

    Good old days buddy. We’d throw stones at the Imli tree too! Kitni baar maar padi hai! We’d play “Bus” on the guava tree. Apart from the aapus, I miss the choosi/bottle aam as well as the badami! Hai hai..Green mangoes (kairi) with mirchi and salt. Mom used to make a chutney with the green mangoes. Oh..good old after-cchool/ summer past-times!

  38. yes, yes! the imli tree, too. my man Chanakya!

    also, apunwa ko kabhi maar nahi padi. papa tak patthar fekte dhe.

  39. Shlok.. tu naseebwala hai. Your papa came along too! Damn, We were lucky if the girls did’nt do any chugli to our papas! Ofcourse, they’d always want some of the fruits of our labour! Asides, we called all weak/kiddo players on our cricket team Kaccha Aam and good players Pakka Aam! The damn mango was also used as scale of ability. Sadela Aam (rotten) for a traitor who got out early or provided laloo bowling! Gutli is someone who is totally incapable of playing! Mango Nation?

  40. Childhood memories – yes, of course we threw stones at the mangoes on the trees in the neighbourhood (and we were a group of girls, thank you very much), hardly ever got any and they weren’t as tasty as the stuff the chanawala in school had, but it was so exciting when you finally got one. Makes you understand the primitive joy of hunting.

    I like Chanakya’s depiction of Mango Nation.

  41. Only mangoes that go through the light irradiation process in Maharashtra will be available in the U.S. What this means in practice is that only a few types of mangoes from a specific region are now coming in.

    The mango agreement may be a token US concession to, er, sweeten the inevitable compromises on the way to the nuclear 123 agreement

    The idea actually was mangoes in the U.S. for Harleys in India

  42. Any Pakistanis and Bangladeshis want to tell us some names of your best mangoes?

    Dont know about Bengalis but Pakistanis basically have the same Mangoes that you get in Delhi/UP. In fact they have some similar local varities as well (for example: Retol from Western UP is also popular in Pakistan with a different name) After 1947, a lot of mango families from UP moved over to Pakistan and they have basically popularized the same type of mangoes in Pakistan which were common pre-partition in UP/Delhi India.

  43. No Banganapalli? Or Rasalu? Or even the infamous Banglura? It’s a time for a nice North-South throwdown, I think! ๐Ÿ™‚

    North has the mango market cornered so there is no debate.

    Re: Banganapalli, Hello? That mango sucks! Its like Safeda and Safeda wont even crack to the top ten in UP.

  44. Shlok, Chanakya, My wifeรขโ‚ฌโ„ขs people have been pulling off Tarantino-style mango heists for years. My first trip w/ them was a huge culture shock. FIL kept the car running. The รขโ‚ฌล“kidsรขโ‚ฌย jumped through wire fences and came back w/ sack full of mangos. They got away just before the dogs started barking. Being principled thieves, they stop and negotiate w/ farmer if the haul is too big. The farmers seem strangely good-humoured about all this.

  45. Al Chutiya for debauchery, I dont think the Badami and Alphonso are the same. The badami is larger and is light yellow or pale as compared to the Aapus which has a orangeish tinge to it. The flesh is meatier in the badami as compared to the aapus but never reaches a full-on honey like sweetness that the aapus can. It always stays close to a decent Tota-puri which is distinct by its shape. Do we have a krishi-darshan / amchi mathi amchi manse expert it the house to give us a second opinion?

    Shodan, If you are a regular mango-thief people often know you by name. hehehe. Often it was easier and cheaper to negotiate with farmers for their produce at the orchard. The catch: its a non-return policy! Amchur and Aam-choor hehe! I remember a friend from Ratnagiri speaking of how the trees are ‘bid on’ during the flowering season for aapus. I doubt that any other fruit is sold that way!

    SP: too? Aye gimme 50 paise imli and 50 paise jeera goli! 50 paise bhor and 50 paise kairi! Precious!