Plenty of types of fruit can be a bit messy to eat, but none surely tops a mango, for which frankly you need a bib? Or possibly swimming trunks. I met a person who jokingly said that they are best eaten in the bath. Another went as far as to say they were best in the sea. Apparently the salt of the water on your hands improves the flavour, complementing the sweetness of the mango.
In addition to being the messiest fruit, mangoes are surely also the most exotic. They are impossibly sweet when they are ripe, and their satin skin has the most amazing and inviting range of colours. From green (even then they can also be used, in chutneys, for instance) they turn yellow and orange, then a hundred shades of blushing red. Some take on an outrageous, luscious pink. There are scores of varieties. The most popular ones around the Caribbean are the Alphonso, Julie and the Number 11. It’s always worth getting hold of one. In terms of taste they are in a different league from anything you can buy in a supermarket at home.
It must have been the God of contrariness that designed that stone, which is shaped like a cuttlefish skeleton. And those filaments, which stick in your teeth, leaving you clicking for the rest of the day trying to get rid of them. But once you become a devotee you take these things in your stride. Actually, opening a mango, sectioning half the flesh within its skin and turning it inside out like a hedgehog is quite fun, particularly if there are children around.
All of which leads, in a roundabout way, to my personal favourite mango-eating moment. It was in Guadeloupe, at the very end of the Guadarun, a 150km staged running race that takes place on five islands around the archipelago over six days. You run on beaches, brutal burnt rocky terrain and over the not inconsiderable mountains (one stage resulted in a ‘personal worst’ marathon time of eight hours 32 minutes, but then there was 9000 feet of climbing). All in the tropical heat of course.
The final stretch of the race runs along the cliffs of the eastern edge of Grande-Terre (it’s the easterly of the two islands, see an explanation of Guadeloupean geographical oddities). After 30 kilometres running in the sun – it was so hot that even the clouds had evaporated - the course turned down into a cove, coming to a finish on a beach. Here I was handed a vast pink and red mango and a knife. Picture then, an exhausted ultra runner now ecstatic - knowing that the challenge is now defeated - sitting in a rockpool up to his waist, mango juice dripping down his chin. Never has a mango tasted so good. Nor been as messy.
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