Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mexico on my mind: Mangoes

I love America. As cliche as it is, sometimes you need to get out of the country to realize that. As much as I'm obsessed with foreign cultures, it's important to love your country, it's home. But there are definitely many things I miss from my recent journey out of the land of the free and home of the brave.

On my recent trip to the city of Oaxaca in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, I got to experience the lush and vibrant culture of this relatively quiet and tranquil part of Mexico. I went there to study Spanish at the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca, hoping to improve my speaking ability. I lived with a lovely host family who treated me like one of the family, showing alot of love and care. One of my favorite memories is sitting around the kitchen table and eating breakfast, and oh how I miss that Mexican breakfast. Every morning Soledad, the matriarch of the family, would prepare for me a lush platter of cut-up fruits (carefully prepared with the skins removed, to avoid contamination from the unfiltered water). This scrumptious plate typically included apples, cantaloupe, banana, papaya, and the most important ingredient, mango.

Before Mexico, I had never had a real mango. These fruits, with their bright golden flesh, tasted like no other fruit I had ever tasted. For me, these mangoes were an escapist experience. When I took a bite, I would close my eyes and be transformed into a khaki-clad adventurer, sifting through the tropical jungles of South America, searching for an oasis in the oppressive heat and humidity. I would find the mythical tree of mangoes, and that first bite would be my salvation. The golden juice would cover my sandpaper tongue, and I would forget about the scorching heat of the sun and the sting of mosquitoes. For a moment, the mango was the only sensation that registered, and it was a much welcomed relief.

I miss these mango reveries. There are only a few foods that I have tasted that provide the magical ability to escape into another place. On returning to the United States, I tried my luck at the mangoes at the supermarket, and my heart sank as I realized that these mangoes were not the same magic mangoes I had tasted in Oaxaca. I know someday I will return to South America and have another magic mango, and escape once more into my romanticized adventures.

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