I am happy
It is a tedious process, let me tell you, that involves first and foremost, a clear big bottle and beautiful green mangoes. With those at the ready you will also need patience, a good measure of it, because there is real waiting time involved, a pretty significant amount considering it is just food. Once you've settled into that you can get a few fistfuls of rock salt, that you dump unapologetically over fat strips of the stiff green fruit. And then you let it be, for the moment at least. Just like that, no mixing or stirring or shaking, trusting simply that when the salt melts because of the fruit's natural juices, delicious chemistry will start to happen.
You wait overnight, resisting the urge to keep on opening the refrigerator door to check how it is doing. Only after such time has passed should you drain the liquid that has accumulated --- a very salty one that will remind you of the beach. Don't be surprised to find that the green mangoes will look strangely more plump now, like they've sucked something they know is good for them, very hungrily. You will also see that they have relaxed a bit too in their stance, as if surrendering to a fate they did not quite choose but welcomed just the same. You then pour white sugar, an equally unapologetic amount of it, adding or taking a little to taste (that 'to taste' part always confuses me, honestly). And then you wait, overnight again --- there is just no fast-tracking the process. That is where the patience part must come in. Don't say I did not warn you.
Your earliest reward is happy anticipation. And then there's always the finished product, of course. That you finish way too quickly because it is just too good. Pickled mangoes. God bless whoever thought of such a wonderful thing.
My ex-boyfriend's mother made the best, not that I tasted a lot of others before I did her version. But hers was so perfect already I did not have to search near, or far, for something better. Just thinking about it now makes me salivate, I remember it so well I can almost taste it. Many years ago as a very new bride I tried to make my own based on what I remembered of hers, but it just was not the same. It was okay, but different. Which is also to say it was nothing great, really. I'm okay with that. Some things just can never be. I have also chanced upon bottled versions here and there, in restaurants and grocery stores especially, but they taste more salty than it can ever be sweet, or too sweet and not salty enough, and some even take to adding something that tastes very much like vinegar to me. That just isn't my thing as far as pickled mangoes go.
In the past when the cravings came, and the real thing was far from near, I turned to dried mangoes from Cebu for comfort. It is far from the salty-sweet goodness of my favored pickled mangoes, and its flavor that flits naughtily from sweet to salty and back with every bite, but it is better than nothing. It may be a twisted substitute, but an already worthy one when all else fails.
Now. What could be better than dried mangoes from Cebu and the pickled mangoes my ex-boyfriend's mother used to make? Dried GREEN mangoes. That taste quite a lot like the pickled mangoes she used to make. That comes in packs. That I can eat immediately, instantly, whenever the craving comes. Being able to enjoy something once-upon-a-time-so-meticulously-prepared almost instantly now feels very much as if a slice of heaven met halfway with a patch of Earth to drop me, a mere speck in the midst of its great, big vastness, a happy compromise. I should send God a great big hug by way of thanks.
This is but a portion of what came in the mail...
There were bright bundles of them, landing happily in the form of a neat package on our doorstep. Most of it went practically straight to my mouth. They come bearing tidings of good cheer all the way from Cebu, courtesy of my college friend, Miyan, and her husband Jordan who makes one of the best dried fruit somethings, anythings, in the land, that they export and distribute under the brand name Freshco. This is my Christmas in February, a yearly ritual that has never been broken, thanks to their thoughtfulness and generosity. I've seen quite a parade through the years ---- dried jackfruit, dried mango rolls, santol preserves, dried pineapples. And now, this. Ever since it arrived I would eat a whole pack all by myself per sitting, and am all the happier for it.
This has been on my wish list for quite some time. I always wondered why no one ever thought of it because, really, if I owned a dried fruit processing factory this would be the first item I would perfect in my product line. But thinking along the hows and whys of that is moot and academic now because, hey, it is here. Finally. And it has found its way to me. Initially just available in Guam, it will make its debut very soon in local shores. Is that lovely news or is that lovely news.
It tastes of summer and happiness, and brings forth images of bright days and little girls in lovely summer dresses. They allow my mind to drift in and out of many other things happy things, too, like being young (and almost gladly ignorant of reality), and the feeling of excting uncertainty that comes with growing up; the joy of discovery, the verve of life and all its surprises. It does make for a good thing, these dried green mangoes, a very good good thing, actually. And I just have to look at the happy bunch on top of the refrigerator in our room, the little that is left of the original lot, to remember that. Because each time I do I am met with a kind of happy anticipation that comes with knowing this one is definitely a keeper, something I always must have somewhere, anywhere; if not in my mouth yet or in the pantry, then definitely in the cravings of my mind.
I. Am. Happy.