Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India
'I was born in a sprawling house by the Yamuna River in Delhi. When I was a few minutes old, Grandmother welcomed me into the world by writing 'Om', which means 'I am' in Sanskrit, on my tongue with a little finger dipped in honey. When the family priest arrived to draw up my horoscope, he scribbled astrological symbols on a long scroll and set down a name for me, Indrani, or 'queen of the heavens'. My father ignored him completely and proclaimed my name was to be Madhur ('sweet as honey').'
So begins Madhur Jaffrey's enchanting memoir of her childhood in India. Her description of growing up a in a very large, wealthy family (half a train was booked to transport the family from Delhi to the mountains for the summer) conjures up the spirit of a long lost age. Whether climbing the mango trees in her grandparents' orchard, armed with a mixture of salt, pepper, red chillies and roasted cumin, or enjoying picnics in the foothills of the Himalayas, reached by foot, rickshaw, palanquin or horse, where meatballs stuffed with sultanas and mint leaves, cauliflowers flavoured with ginger and coriander, and spiced pooris with hot green mango pickle were devoured, food forms a major leitmotiv of this beautifully written memoir. With recipes drawn from memories of dinners, lunches, breakfasts, weddings and picnics, moving effortlessly from the lamb meatballs of Moghul emperors to the tamarind chutneys of the streets, this book will appeal to keen armchair cooks, as well as fans of Madhur the world over.