The Seed of a Mango – Food Memories on Father’s Day

The seed of a mango is often the center of a conflict, at least when Indian children are involved.  My father, the family bully and later beloved patriarch of the clan, routinely won the battle over who got to suck out the juicy bits of a mango seed, leaving his 6 brothers and sisters crying and cursing.  A childhood of poverty forced sharing, or winning, at every meal.  When Papa emigrated to the US and his fortunes changed, he went from social Darwinist to generous benefactor. Able to afford cases of mangoes, he offered them to anyone who crossed his threshold.  There were the fruits themselves, mango lassi, mango rus, and mango pickle.  Summer meant sticky fingers and sweetness.

San Cristobal de las Casas. Municipal Market: Mango vendors
Photo by Wolfgang Sauber

Chicago in the 1970s was not the international food haven it has now become, so mangoes were not available at the average grocery store.  Finding Indian mangoes was impossible because of trade restrictions.  Mexico was the exporter of choice.  Having a medical clinic in the Mexican barrio, Papa was happy to barter medical attention for mangoes by the case.  He would take orders over the weekend from all his friends, and visit the mercado on Monday to fill his trunk.   My brother spent his summer unloading 15-20 cases a week from Papa’s car.  When friends would come pick up their orders, of course my mother insisted they stop for chai, and eat one or two of our bounty sprinkled with cumin powder and salt before they left.

Papa made sure we could eat our fill at every meal.  I’m convinced he believed that part of the ‘giving my children a better life’ move from India included mango prosperity.  I grew up without sibling combat over seeds.  If my brother and I both wanted to suck the center, we just grabbed one for ourselves.   We watched Papa eat all the cut up pieces of mango, only eating the seed at the end.  Seeds were never the appetizer, always dessert.  We learned the proper technique for getting maximum pulp without it sliding out of our fingers and plopping on the floor.  Good times.

I lost my father seven years ago, almost to the day.   On Father’s Day this past Sunday, I called my mother. We acknowledged our loss, happy that we have each other.  For dessert I chose the ripest, plumpest mango I could find.  I devoured the seed, licked every finger, and relished the memories.


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Chickpea Flour Recipes You’ll Want to Spread Around

For me, the nutty scent of chickpea flour is inextricably linked to a bathtub. No, you have not accidently found yourself reading some kinky sex blog involving naked bodies and food fetishes. The memory is of a nurturing kind, with my mother as masseuse and chickpea flour, turmeric and milk as the healing paste.

Mothers across the Indian subcontinent begin the baby massage ritual as early as 6 weeks of age, combining almond oil and chickpea flour to stretch the baby, soothe the skin, and even remove hair. I can see my six-year-old self irritated and impatient as my mother would make a paste for me to use on my skin after a sunburnt romp at the swimming pool. She’d run the bath, cover me in dough, and scrub. Like so many souvenirs, the annoyance fades, and the love of mother to child shines through.

For me, the nutty scent of chickpea flour is inextricably linked to a bathtub. No, you have not accidently found yourself reading some kinky sex blog involving naked bodies and food fetishes.

Most Indian women use chickpea flour (also known as besan, gram flour and chana dal flour) as a common ingredient in homemade recipes for all manner of beauty regimes. The pursuit of loveliness involves besan, milk, yogurt, rose water, lime juice, almonds and turmeric in various combinations. The recipes are endless, but besan and a liquid are always the base with the other ingredients added depending on the moisture of the skin, freckles, acne, wrinkles, skin lightening, and hair removal.

Skin Cleansing

  • One teaspoon of besan
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • Half teaspoon of honey
  • Half teaspoon of olive oil
  • Mix it well and apply.

Sunburns –

  • One teaspoon besan
  • Two teaspoons yogurt
  • Apply to face and let dry for 30 min
  • Remove with plain water

Skin Whitening One of the more disturbing recipes, but a common one in a fair-skinned obsessed India

  • 2 teaspoons of besan
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • A few drops of lemon juice
  • A few drops of milk
  • Make a paste and apply it on the skin
  • After the paste dries, scrub off

Do you have any yummy beauty recipes in your family? Feel like trying the recipes above? Please share your thoughts with us.


Snowpocalypse 1, HUSH 0

My speech was lovingly plagiarized, with a few HUSH references inserted for effect.   Henry V’s monologue on the Feast of St. Crispin’s Day fit like hand in snow mitten for the Inaugural HUSH Supper on February 6.  White mountains of stony frozen water would be traversed by a hearty few in quest of stories and spices.  Feast and oratory I would provide.

Geeta I’s Feast of HUSH Supper Club Speech

This day is called the feast of HUSH Supper Club

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand tip-toe when the day is named,

And rouse him at the name of HUSH.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours.

And say ‘To-morrow is HUSH Supper Club Day’

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,

But he’ll remember with advantages

What feats he did that day: then shall our names,

Familiar in his mouth as household words

Geeta the chef, Brandon the server, Manju the line cook,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember’d.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

And HUSH shall ne’er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he today that shares spices with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition

And gentlemen in DC now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks

That dined with us upon HUSH Supper Day.

Alas, the speech was not to be.  The weather gods won the epic battle, and HUSH guests were informed that 22 inches of white wrath had bested the bravest HUSH server.  Our feast was forgone, and Henry V’s glory at the battle of Agincourt was spared mimicry.

Instead of feasts and glory, I was left with kilos of basmati rice and moong beans.  But Shakespeare still had his say.  I joined the Malcolm X Park snowball fight at 16th and W, NW.  Hundreds of fighters pelted each other as I resurrected the battle of Harfleur:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our DC dead.

No one heard me or got the reference…  I missed many marks, avoided the worst of the balls hurling at me, and raised a glass to the feast that wasn’t.

Delayed, but not discouraged.  HUSH will return.

Kenneth Branaugh as Henry V – St. Crispin’s Day

Henry V – St. Crispin’s Day Speech