Allegory of the warm mango

One day I bought a box of Champagne mangoes at Costco because my daughter was on a mango kick. (Aside: I looked up Champagne mangoes because I felt I needed to understand them better, and whoever wrote the introductory paragraph on Wikipedia describes them as having “a somewhat sigmoid (oblong) shape and a gold-blushed yellow skin” and that “their buttery flesh is not fibrous, and they have a thin pit”. Next time I have a glass of actual champagne, I’m toasting this writer because that’s just a little bit of encylopedic poetry right there.) It was a hot day and I had other errands (this was pre-covid when I did things like errands), so the mangoes sat in the car for a while before I brought them inside. As soon as I did, Summerly (seven years old at the time) asked me to cut one up for her, and upon tasting it, she exclaimed in wonderment, “Wow! It’s so much better when it’s warm! Why does mango taste better warm?”

Of course there may very well be a scientific explanation including enzymes and amino acids and the molecular structure of fructose and taste receptors and how fluids expand in direct proportion to increase in temperature, but I know none of that. What I do know is what the purpose of fruit is, as it pertains to the plant that went through the perspiration of respiration to grow it, and this is to disseminate its seeds and perpetuate itself. I realized the conundrum of the fact that I was looking at my very own child while I was thinking these things in response to her question, and here’s a version of how I answered her (by the way, many of my answers to my kids’ questions begin with these first four words): “I don’t know, but maybe because the fruit of the mango tree contains its pit, and the reason that fruit tastes good is so it can attract animals to it for food. This way the animals will eat the fruit and leave the seed to grow a new tree, and thus the tree that grew the original mango has done its botanically biological job, which is reproduction. And the mango itself, at its pinnacle of deliciousness, is when it’s ripest and fullest and most enticing as a food source, and nothing tastes better than right after it’s picked, so the mango is doing its best job in that moment when the fruit has been given just the right amount of sun and water and balance of nutrients from the soil. At that moment, that tipping point after which the fruit will begin its path to decomposition (the second best route to regermination), when it’s gotten the best angle of sun on that most special of days, in that beatific moment when an animal would approach that particular tree amid a grove of other fruiting trees and select that particular fruit, the mango is warm. Maybe it tastes best to you when it’s warm because you are an animal and the tree knew, in the ways that all plants know, that to attract you was the means to an end with the objective of regrowth.”

And then, as my captive audience hadn’t yet left her seat, I took it one step further to say that maybe each of us is like a piece of fruit hanging on a tree, and if we could have just the right titration of factors to inspire every kind of our personal health, that is when we would be ripest, warmest, happiest. And when one of those factors is out of balance for us (e.g. too many worries or not enough sleep, feeling like the days are too short or wishing we had more time, missing people or wanting to be alone), the perfection of our happiness is compromised. Most of us most of the time are probably feeling more like a mango that’s either overripe or too green or frozen solid, especially these days. But I love the idea, utopian as it may be, that there might be a warm mango moment for each of us, at least once in our lives, when all the aspects of our bodies and minds could attain a nirvana-like balance. Thinking I’d done a bang-up mom job responding to a question that I had no precedent for answering and that was probably subjective anyway, I smiled triumphantly at my daughter, who by this point had moved onto the bowl of blueberries on the kitchen island, and asked her, “What do you think?”

“Mommy,” she said, “Look how many blueberries I can fit in my mouth!”


4 thoughts on “Allegory of the warm mango

  1. kyron w. scott

    A toast to you.

    I learned a new word in wondering if you’d made a typo. Yay, learning!!

    You should have the spot on cbs Sunday morning that used to belong to Andy Rooney.

  2. Pender

    This is wonderful! I remember having one of these “warm mango” moments a long time ago when I felt like life was pretty perfect and settled… didn’t last long, but I don’t think they are supposed to. Most of the time life is out of balance. Your writing is beautiful and so on target.


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