April marks the beginning of mango season.
Well, not here in Kentucky, but in Central America. While my neighbors may be waiting for the magnolia blossoms, I’m dreaming of mangoes picked fresh off the tree.
We all know that food conjures up memories. That’s because most of the time food and cooking conjure up memorable occasions. When I cut into a mango, I’m transported to the first taste of mango I had in Honduras, remembering all the sensory details. I recall sitting down to lunch in the dining room with the sound of my friends’ chatter up and down the table, the stickiness of the fruit, the hardness of its flesh, and the sweetness of the first bite.
I once went to a discussion on Butler’s campus about how to come back home after studying abroad, despite not having actually studied abroad myself. The group discussed the difficulties of explaining their experiences to their friends and families; often times they could only show them. More often than not, this was done by preparing a meal that had had meaning for them while abroad. Food was the means of communicating an experience, as well as a way to share that experience.
Eating is part of our daily life. It’s so natural and so basic. The people we love are the ones we share our food with. The fully sensory experiences we have of cooking and eating together are forever imprinted in our minds and recalled with taste, smell or sound.
Mangoes are significant to me. So are plantains, papaya and guacamole. I think of sharing meals in Honduras, and of Juanita, the woman who, every time I go, spoils me and prepares special food for la vegetariana.
My nickname there is comeloncita, which essentially means I like to eat (a lot), so it didn’t surprise anyone when I asked to learn how to cook Honduran food for my family in America.
Rice: Chop onions & peppers, and then cook in oil. Add 2 cups rice and 4 cups broth. Cover and cook.
Beans: Cook beans in oil with seasoning, and crushed pepper for flavor.
Baked plantains: When the plantain is very ripe, cut it open, add butter or oil, and bake it. Plantains can also be fried or boiled.
I’m not just longing for fresh mangoes, but longing for Honduras. It’s been over a year since my last trip, and I’m itching to go back, especially now that Nick and I sponsor two beautiful girls there. Next time I go, even if mangoes are not in season, I know I will share many meals with my friends that will become good memories.