Farah Habib

How to Eat a Mango

Slice with the skin on. Stand the mango up. Cut from the top of the fruit, down one side of the pit and then the other; try to cut as close to the pit as you can. Put the side with the pit on the square wooden cutting board that sits in front of you on the small kitchen counter where you are standing. Hold the other half in your hand and make a tic –tac – toe like grid; peel back the skin and knife out the meat. The fruit should fall in cube-like shapes into a bowl. Serve with fork and napkin. The internet is full of suggestions. 

 

Is that it?  Is that the way to make a mango taste syrupy sweet like it did back when your uncle served it after dinner, the deep rumble of his laughter leaving you hungry for more? 


No results found, the internet responds. Did you mean mango mousse?


Come on, don’t you know what I’m talking about? Is it in the geometry of the mangoes where the sweetness resides?


Mangoes come in all shapes and sizes, the internet states—oval, round, almond-like.


Looking closely at the images online, you see only perfect piles of the tropical delight, no sturdy palm cupping the soft drupe, no thick grip that always knew what to do, how to be.


The secret, you finally realize, is in the hands. Yes, it’s somewhere deep in the lines of the hands of the man who cuts, slices and serves the yellow-orange sweetness to all the children and adults sitting around the long rectangular table listening, talking, learning the ways of the world in a room with stories that make their way to us, as the juice from the pulpy, soft, fibrous meat slides down our chins and fills our mouths with the sometimes citrusy, sometimes tangy taste so comforting and soothing in the way stories are when told to us by those who were there, who walked the gullies, who sat on the charpoys, who chewed on the paans, who smoked the hookahs, who remembered the mothers, who buried the fathers, who wiped the tears, but always, always knew what to do as they slept on the clean white sheets spread out in the big open spaces of the verandas where our ancestors breathed in the house full of mangoes.


Farah Habib lives in Massachusetts and teaches literature and writing at a community college. Her creative work includes non-fiction essays and short stories on the theme of the hybrid self.