February 25, 2024 | Rome, Italy

How to botch a mango

By |2023-09-04T16:09:53+02:00September 4th, 2023|"Suzanne's Taste"|
The joy of fresh mangoes, even if you don't know how to cut them.
M

angoes rock, especially at this time of year. I live in a place where there is a store called Picard, which, don’t you know it, is the secret of great chefs. What this means is that I am spoiled by having access to frozen mangoes whenever I want them, for whatever whimsical culinary concoction that I come up with. But still, fresh mangoes are the best.

We, my honey and I, love mangoes. Ripe ones, golden and red, and yielding to the touch. Dark green ones, tart as lemons. And pale green ones, with tangy sour-sweet flesh, which is the kind brought to us by our Japanese-American neighbor. Her family live in Hawaii and they have their very own mango trees, and so can have mangoes – beautiful mangoes! – whenever they want. Of course I realize that mangoes are seasonal and even they, lucky they, cannot have them year round (as I, poor I, who has to rely on the store, can), but still. What heaven it must be to have fresh mangoes in the back yard.

Now, having the fruit of paradise actually in my house, a real one for once and not the frozen stuff, what could I do but sharpen my paring knife and cut lengthwise through the soft parts and then make horizontal slashes across? This way I would, I thought, liberate lovely golden squares of mango. But as fate would have it, that was mistake No. 2.

The worst part of my mangle story is that I, a great lover of Google, the undisputed guru of all gurus, neglected to consult him.

Mistake No. 1 was that I peeled the mango with a vegetable peeler and much too much enthusiasm, and so lopped off part of a fingernail.

I did manage the lengthwise and cross-cuts, but sliding my razor-sharp utensil down the slippery fruit almost took the tip of a finger with it, not a particularly wanted addition to the recipes I had planned.

I did manage to liberate a few perfect squares, but the seed appeared to have much more to offer, so I began to pare off what looked like firm pieces. After having made perfect cubes at the beginning, these odd looking bits and pieces were distressingly unaesthetic.

The worst part of my mangle story is that I, a great lover of Google, the undisputed guru of all gurus, neglected to consult him. Had I only done that, he would have had me watch the 10-second video on the website of How To Cut A Mango!

Duh.

All this being said, I share with you the fact that I will NEVER cut a mango in this way again, not now that I’ve been enlightened. Why on earth didn’t I seek advice before proceeding?

Still, I relish my plate of mangoes and will savor them, sprinkled with a very small bit of olive oil and fresh black pepper as our neighbor does, or, on a sweeter note, freeze them with a dash of vanilla and a squeeze of lime, and for a quick dessert, whip up a half cup of heavy cream in my food processor with the frozen mango slices, producing perfect ice cream in two minutes.

My Japanese friend also happens to love spaghetti alle vongole and when she hears that she’s to share it with us she always says, “Yay, yay, I am doing a happy dance!” My feet do their own happy dance. They tap for mangoes.

And I hope I have at last learned to mango.

About the Author:

Suzanne Dunaway, a longtime major magazine writer and artist, is the author and illustrator of "Rome, At Home, The Spirit of La Cucina Romana in Your Own Kitchen" (Broadway Books) and "No Need To Knead, Handmade Italian Breads in 90 Minutes" (Hyperion). She taught cooking for 15 years privately and at cooking schools in Los Angeles, and now maintains a personal website and a blog. She divides her time between southern France and Italy.