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Foreign mangoes: all size and no taste?
Mango vert, Mango teen,
Mango vert, Mango teen,
Ah want a penny to buy
mango vert, mango teen
There are 43 words or phrases containing the word mango in the fascinating Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago edited by Lise Winer: Mango anchar; mango apricot or zabico; mango balata pool; mango belly-bef or bellyful; mango big or big-meat or Graham; mango bullstones, so named for obvious reasons (also known as ten-pound mango); mango calabash; mango canelle; mango cedar; mango cheese; mango chow to edge your teeth; mango cochon or hog mango; mango cutlass; mango doodoos; mango egg; mango glo; mango-head; the mango hummingbird; mango ice cream; mango joe; mango John; mango julie, the champagne of mangos; the inappropriately named mango kakapool; mango koden; mango leatherskin; mango little pa; mango long; mango pawpoi; mango Peter; mango rose of Fluke’s Adam and Eve fame; mango round (dat is mango fadder); the mango or guava season beloved by teachers; mango snake; mango spice; mango starch; mango suce-am-tante; mango teen; mango turpentine; and back to where we started, mango vert.
Other mango names abound. Donkey-stones, sugar mango, pawpaw mango, bastapool, Blackman mango, shilling mango and fancy mango. Mangoes are used to make kuchela, mango wine, soaps, candles, fudge, jams and jellies, mango paper, mango bread and mango upside-down cake.
There is an annual Mango Festival now held in July, which used to be known as the start of mango season, traditionally associated with the onset of gastro season but now appreciated, since the work of Dr Barbara Hull in 1979, as really due to the rota virus, so perhaps the next variety of no-name grafted mango should be known as mango rota or mango Hull.
It must be one of the most common words in the Winer-edited dictionary; not surprising, given the influence of mangoes in our society. Mangoes originated in South Asia and is the national fruit of India so were probably brought here by Indian indentured servants; I have this image of an East Indian man desperately clinging to his little mango plant all the way across the kalapani and rushing off to plant it in the nearest clearing he could find as soon as they let him off Nelson Island.
All these different types of mangoes are an integral part of the local culture, whether as food, calypso, talk, part of religious ceremonies or descriptions of local things. There are mango-eating competitions, apparently dominated by women, which challenge participants “to leave as little mango pulp on two medium-sized mangoes in as short a space of time as possible.”
Everyone has their own idea about how mangoes should be eaten. In one of my favourite stories from The Nelson’s West Indian Reader, compiled by the then chief education officer, the colonial Joseph Cutteridge, the little English boy’s mother makes him eat his mango in his bathtub so as not to spoil his new clothes. We seldom had new clothes and tub baths were quite unknown so that was not a problem for us. We ate our mangoes where we could get them, sloppily and greedily.
We ate them ripe, we ate them green. We bit off the tips and sucked them dry. We sliced them and diced them and ate them cheek after cheek. We ate them with salt, we ate them with vinegar and we ate them as chow with chadon beni and black pepper. Little girls made dolls with the seeds of mango vert and little boys grew up pelting mango so that they could pelt javelin and win medals at the Olympics and come home and be feted by the Prime Minister.
So it was with some consternation that I read in another newspaper on November 17 that the same Prime Minister had apparently decided to import mangoes from the USA so that we could have mangoes “all year round.” How could we, a nation of mango suckers, ever accept American mangoes? How could the Prime Minister, put into power by rural agriculturalists, a child of the soil, reject her ancestral background to the extent of selling out to foreign mango interests?
Shouldn’t we be doing the exact opposite? Shouldn’t we be exporting mango to the USA? What was going on here? This seemed worse than the Manning idea of bringing Cubans, who couldn’t grow food for themselves, to show us how to grow cassava and dasheen. It wasn’t quite as bad as that. The idea apparently is to source mango plants from the United States that “bear mangoes all year round.”
Doubts remain. What kind of mango is that? Genetically modified with grizzly bear cells to grow in the cold? Will it be like those super-sized tasteless American tomatoes and carrots, a foreign belly-bef, all size and no taste, even for a chow? Worst of all, will we be asked to eat it in the bath or with knife and fork?
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