The Food Almanac: Monday, July 22, 2013

National Mango Day

Today's Flavor
It is National Mango Day. A few years ago the mango surpassed the banana to become the world's most popular fresh fruit. It's not Number One in America, but we're eating lots more of them. As Thai and Indian restaurants become more popular, so do mangoes. 

The fruit originally came from India, where they are held in some reverence. Growing mangoes requires not just a warm climate but one in which there are distinct wet and dry seasons. The fruit trees have spread for almost two thousand years, as far as Mexico and the Caribbean.

Mangoes are certainly delicious. They're particularly excellent chilled and served as is, or with ice cream. In Thai restaurants it's a common dessert with sweetened rice. The meat is soft, sweet, and aromatic--unless it gets too ripe. Then it gives off a sort of petroleum smell that can turn you off to the fruit forever. Don't let that happen. Mangoes ripen off the tree, so they can be picked unripe. Unripe mangoes can be marinated into pickles, used for things like mango chutney.

Mangoes have just one big seed, sort of like an avocado--which mangoes also resemble in size and shape. (They're not related.) Don't bother trying to grow your own mango trees from the seeds. They don't reproduce true, and will likely give you a petroleum-scented fruit with a tremendous amount of fiber. Good mangoes come only from grafted trees. They also are killed by barely freezing temperatures

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
The bigger the mango, the better it is. Don't let the juice get on a white shirt. It never washes out.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Mango, Florida is thirteen miles east of Tampa. It's an old suburban neighborhood with a rural quality, between Dr. Martin Luther King Blvd. and the railroad tracks. Newer neighborhoods surround it with houses on smaller lots. No evidence of mango trees can be seen, but the weather might allow cultivation in protected spots. A cluster of fast food, Asian restaurants and a Waffle House are on MLK, within walking distance of any home in Mango.

Edible Dictionary
quince, n.--A pear-shaped, firm, dense-textured tree fruit related to the apple and the pear. Like the apple, it's native to extreme southwest Asia, and has been eaten since the time of the earliest civilizations in the Middle East. It's often mentioned in ancient literature. The skin of a quince is bright yellow. Because of that, it was called pomodoro in Italy until the arrival there of the tomato, which now has that name. The flesh of the fruit is too acidic for quinces to become popular as a fruit to eat fresh. However, when it's cooked it gets sweeter, and releases a very appealing aroma. It also turns red when cooked. Most quinces find their way into either a pie or a canning jar as a jam or jelly. The Portuguese word for quince, marmelo, is the root of the word marmalade.

Eating In The Sky 
A whole bunch of first around-the-world flights ended successfully today, in different years. Wiley Post was the first man to do it in an airplane, in 1933. In 1989, eleven-year-old Tony Aliengena became the youngest pilot ever to circumnavigate. And in 1983 Dick Smith became the first to fly around the world solo in a helicopter. All on the same date! What are the chances? More important, what did they eat?

Deft Dining Rule #185
The fact that a restaurant fills your plate is not good enough reason for you to empty it. The fuller it is, the more this is true.

Annals Of Food Research 
On this date in 1822, Gregor Mendel was born. He was the father of plant genetics, and discoverer of the mechanism by which plants and animals give rise to hybrids. This led ultimately to the creation of the great strains of vegetables and meats that we enjoy now. Thank him for Creole tomatoes, Black Angus beef, and broccoli.

Music To Set You Free
Vanilla Fudge, which made tripped-out, mock-psychedelic versions of Motown songs, made its first concert appearance in New York today in 1967.

Food Namesakes
Orson Bean (whose real name was Dallas Burroughs, which sounds as good to me as "Orson Bean") was born today in 1928. He was a mellow-mood comedian with an intellectual bent I always liked. He had a famous conversation with Johnny Carson once about how he loved to order escargots in restaurants, "as long as they hold the slugs." . . . Godfrey of Bouillon, one of the leaders of the First Crusade, was named First Defender of the Holy Sepulchre today in 1099. . . William Archibald Spooner, a preacher, came to earth today in 1844. He had the unfortunate habit of switching consonants around in his speech. For example, "The dear old Queen" came out "The queer old Dean." Such expressions became known as "spoonerisms.". . . Former British race car driver Calvin Fish was born today in 1961. He's now a TV sports commentator. . . Canadian dancer and actress A.J. Cook hit the Big Stage today in 1978.

Words To Eat By
"Garnishing of dishes has also a great deal to do with the appearance of a dinner table, each dish garnished sufficiently to be in good taste without looking absurd."--Hugo Ziemann, former White House steward.


Words To Drink By
"Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors and miss."--Robert A. Heinlein.