Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Pairi Mango

Remember ages ago when I went to the Mango Festival at Fairchild back in July, forever ago before I ran up North to plunder their local peaches and watermelons and pulled a massive disappearing act on you all? It's so long, you've probably forgotten. But my friend and I did go to the Mango Festival, which was really a lovely idea. In theory. The Mango Festival itself and the going to it, I mean.

I think I put off writing about it because, while I adore my friend and all time spent with her, I did not so much enjoy the Mango Festival for two main reasons. OK, three. First, it was so hot that day that we broiled alive. Second, it was too crowded, which made it about ten gazillion times hotter. I swear at once point I looked down and actually saw my skin bubbling. I even wore a linen sundress and a big straw hat that made me look like I was in disguise. To no avail though, because the heat was to a degree that made me want to fall on my knees and thank God for incarnating me after the invention of air conditioning. Last, I did not love the Mango Festival as much as I had wanted to love it because most of the mangoes being sold were not local, although in the festival's defense they were selling a lot of trees and therefore contributing to the creation of even more local mangoes. Maybe I was just crabby and indignant because I was in the early stages of heat stroke.

There were some highlights of the afternoon though. I enjoyed a lovely, if a bit too cloying, mango smoothie, but due to my heightened crabbiness, with each sweet sip all I could think about was how I needed a few squeezes of lime to pucker it up. The other highlight was the discovery of the Pairi Mango, which proved not so much delicious as wildly entertaining.

You see, the Pairi Mango is uniquely fragrant. It has a distinct perfume unlike any other mango.

I had hoped, in vain, to get my grubby hands on an Alphonso mango. If you haven't heard the legends and lore associated with the Alphonso, they are THE mango of India, which every immigrant from there will tell you is the finest mango in the entire world and virtually impossible to get outside of India. Then they will cry a little bit at the memory of how perfect those mangoes were. Last year someone, I have no idea who, but someone I wouldn't like, got the brilliant idea to spray the hell out of them with pesticides and God knows what else and ship them clear across the world to America. Indians rejoiced. Locavores winced. I heard that the Alphonsos were still good, but just not quite as good as they were when left to their natural ripening processes in India. But I also heard that some people were trying to grow them here and then I heard a rumor that there might be some to try at the Mango Festival.

There were, but they were for people who attended a special brunch and mango tasting, so I didn't get to have any. None were for sale. However, there were many many many Pairis for sale and no one was buying them.

The smell attracted me. Pairi mangoes smell like curry and I mean exactly like curry. One smell of a Pairi transports you straight to India. I inhaled and imagined myself swirled in a length of crimson sari. I began to have fantasies involving Ashrams and peacocks, elephants and many armed deities. I had to have some of these spicy mangos.

On the way home the Pairis stunk up my car. By the time I got them in the house they had become even more fragrant and instantly stunk up the entire kitchen. Then I realized the smell had sweetened and now the Pairis smelled exactly like cardamom. I tested this by opening a jar of cardamom and comparing the mango with the spice. Exactly the same.

I let them ripen another day. The whole house smelled like Indian spices.

My sister came over.

"EWWWW," she declared, "What stinks?"

"These mangoes," I explained.

She took a sniff and grimaced.

My husband came home and had a similar reaction.

"The whole house reeks," he said.

It did. I asked my sister what she thought the mangoes smelled like.

"B.O.," she said.

"As in-"

"Body Odor, yes," she said.

My husband agreed. The mangoes had gone from curry to cardamom to straight up armpit in two days.

No one wanted to eat one and I had three. I cut open the smallest and tried it. It was not the best mango I have ever had and I am trying to be kind. One should always be kind and reverent when speaking of mangoes, but the Pairi was stringy and strange and very bitter. I feel terrible, but I didn't like it very much.

I did like making people smell it though. Over the next few days I made everyone smell the Pairi mangoes that remained. I asked them what they thought they smelled like.


"A locker room."


"A Chain Gang in Summer."

"A New York Taxi cab."

The answers never ceased to amuse me.

In the end, I couldn't give away the Pairi mangos. No one wanted to eat something that smelled like that.

"But people love stinky cheese," I'd argue.

I put the now over-ripe mangos out in the yard for the iguanas to eat. I looked out the window as one, bright green lizard seemed to tentatively sniff the fruits in the grass. It turned and seemed to look right at me with an incredulous expression, as if to say "Woman have you lost your mind? This stinks. I may have eaten your burgeoning radishes and decimated your cucumber and watermelon seedlings, but really, do I deserve THIS?"

And then it walked away, jumped off the dock into the Intracoastal and swam away in disgust.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Pairi is in season here in India now.

    The best time to have the Pairi is when they have a yelloish green skin and give off a faint but distinct fragrance.

    Any yellower or fragrant means they have lost their flavours.

    Pairi is a 'juice mango'- to be pulped within the skin and sucked from the top.

    Alphonso on the other hand is a 'slice mango', firmer and orangier.