on January 11, 2007
Anyone who has read the work of writers such as Nigel Slater or MFK Fisher knows that food can feed memory. And so it is true of Climbing the Mango Trees, a delightful memoir by Madhur Jaffrey. Jaffrey's childhood is recalled through the spices, textures and the aromas of the food that surrounded her. Living with her parents and siblings alongside her grandparents and many aunts, uncles and cousins she mentions in passing that she was an adult before she realized that most immediate families did not consist of at least thirty people. I loved Jaffrey's description of her and her many cousins sitting in their grandfather's mango tree. The eldest sat nearest the top with a knife and handed down pieces of green mango for the smaller children on the lower branches. When she began to dip her mango slices into salt and chili she was no longer considered a baby. Jaffrey is an elegant writer and effortlessly evokes what it was like to be a child of privilege growing up at the end of British rule in India. Her descriptions of the family foodstuffs is mouthwatering and she provides over thirty of her family recipes in the back of the book.