Bananas were my first love, as I'm sure they were for many children. I ate them from Gerber jars as an infant, then frozen or sliced over Cheerios as I grew up. Bananas were sweet, familiar, and pleasantly mushy. My mom commented recently that when I was growing up, she wasn't sure that I would ever eat anything but bananas and macaroni and cheese, which in my opinion is still not a bad way to live.
Then came the mango, with it's exotic perfume and juice that ran all the way down your chin and hands. Mango was the perfect balance of foreign and familiar in the fruit world- a large, smiling Jamaican woman who wears the same perfume as your mother. Mango accompanied us on every beach trip. We kept an aromatic bowl of them on the center of the table, green with a bright red blush, lounging around til breakfast or afternoon snack. My mom would peel them into thin ribbons, then cube the juicy flesh and either slip them into a fruit salad alongside my old pal, the banana, or just plop them in a clean white bowl for me to eat merrily on the porch.
My best friend around this time was a girl who had just moved from Grand Cayman with her mom and siblings after a hurricane hit the island. Her dad stayed behind to man the family business, and every time they went to visit him, they brought me back a Tortuga rum cake- which is a sticky, sweet bundt cake with nuts that comes in a yellow hexagonal box with a treasure chest on top. Sometimes I loved it with a glass of milk, and sometimes I did not love it at all. While I appreciated the introduction to rum cake, this friend taught me a much more valuable lesson- how to properly eat a mango.
On one of the aforementioned beach trips, she took a mango from the fruit bowl, bit the tip off, and proceeded to peel it like a banana. We gathered around her like cave-people discovering fire, awestruck. In peeling it like this, all that came off was the skin and the fibers that get stuck in your teeth anyway. She then bit into it and ate right down to the pit. We always lost quality mango to the pit, it was just so hard to see! This changed things. I now peeled my mangoes like bananas and ate them standing over the sink, juice running down my chin and forearms. Mango never made it into a fruit salad or bowl again.
Around midnight one night this week, I decided to make mango oatmeal, a recipe that some friends brought back with them from a trip to Haiti. We made it all together at first, amazed at the deliciousness and at our own cooking prowess, and I made it with them again for a boy I was dating a bit later. We had all just gotten back from a Guatemala trip, and it seemed fitting to make mango oatmeal. I had to slice the mangoes, which is truly a labor of love, but that didn't stop me from slurping the rest of the flesh off the pit before throwing them in the trash. Mango isn't a food to be dignified or proper about- it's about pure pleasure.
This week was the first time in a while that I had made it, and I had to adapt a few recipes into one since the original was in a journal at my parents house, pages probably still sticky with mango. And as I stood over the sink, with mango juice running down my arms, I got very happy about who I was getting to make mango oatmeal for this time, happy about all the memories tied up in this dish, happy about mango. I hope you, too, make your own happy memories with this dish.
Haitian Baked Mango Oatmeal
adapted from Shauna Niequist's Blueberry Crisp
- 4 large mangos, peeled as specified above, and sliced
- 1 c. oats
- 1/2 c. almond meal
- 1/4 c. coconut oil, liquefied
- 1/4 c. honey
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- a handful of chopped pecans, to your taste
- a pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350. Arrange the sliced mango in an even layer in a greased 8x8 pan.
Combine the crisp ingredients in a medium bowl, and spoon over the mango.
This reheats very well and keeps for about a week in the refrigerator. I can't speak to this definitively though as mine has never had the opportunity to keep for that long. I like to scoop it into a bowl and pour a little milk over the top before warming it.
Eat with the people you love.