My first mango …

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Mango HedgehogMy new book Dreams of the Philippines should be out very soon.  In the book I talk about eating my first mango.  It was such an exhilarating experience, I felt I should share it here.

If there’s anyone out there who’s never had a fresh, ripe, Philippine mango, I highly encourage you to go get one now.  Drop everything you’re doing and get that mango.  Take the next flight to Manila.  Do whatever you have to do to get that mango.  It’s all about enjoying life … and eating a fresh, ripe, Philippine mango is about as good as life gets!

My First Mango

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing to an exotic-looking fruit.

The lady finished peeling a piece of fruit for another customer and then answered my question, “It’s a mango; ever had one before?”

“No.”

“It’s delicious,” she said. “You got to try it.”

Originally, I just wanted to know what it was called. Now I was in a negotiation to buy one. She was a good sales lady because I didn’t want to get a mango. I simply wanted to know what it was. Her suggestion got me thinking, “Hmm, why wouldn’t I try one? Why would I come all the way to the Far East and then only eat stuff I eat back home? No adventure in that.”

“Yes, I’ll take one please.” She picked up a mango and handed it to me. I handed her the money. I paid in US dollars. I forget how much the mango cost, but I do remember being surprised at the low cost of just about everything.

I wasn’t really expecting much from my first mango experience. I figured it would be another life let down. “OK, it tastes pretty good but nothing to get excited about. Least I can say I tried it once.”

But life has a way of handing out surprises—some good, some bad. I was about to experience one of life’s good surprises.

I picked up one piece of mango and looked at the fleshy cubes as they stared back at me. Then I rammed a bunch of them in my mouth and bit down ripping the cubes off the mango skin and onto my tongue. I started to chew the morsels creating a gooey mango pulp. As I chewed, I kept getting shot with heavenly flavor bursts. My taste buds went crazy sending happy signals to my brain. Each signal repeated the same message, “Delicious, delicious, delicious.” Followed by “Eat more, eat more, eat more!”

One of my favorite memories of eating my first mango was the sensation of mango juice running down the side of my face. I tried to keep it all contained within my mouth but it was impossible. The juice just sprayed out. I’d never eaten a fruit so fresh, so juicy, and so delicious.

I felt like an ill-mannered schoolboy as I attacked the mango, getting the sticky juice and pulp on my hands and all over my face. But it seemed like that was the best way to eat it; otherwise I would miss out as I watched the juice spill onto the fertile soil below. I didn’t want to waste any of it.

I finally finished devouring my first mango. I must have appeared funny-looking as I sat on the bench with my elbows on my knees and my hands open and in front still dripping mango juice. On the floor below between my legs sat three items that told any observer what I’d done—two inward bent mango skins and a yellow, gnawed at, mango seed. The mango seed looked like a chipmunk had been chewing on it for the past week or so.

As I sat there with mango juice dripping from my fingers, I had only one thought going through my head. The thought had to do with how good the mango tasted. The thought had to do with how I was overwhelmed by this new exotic taste that had just entered my world. The overriding thought was this:

How come it took this long in my life to taste a mango?

I’d missed out all these years. How come I never heard of mango before? How come nobody ever told me about mango?

I sat there on the wooden bench, in the woods, at Camp John Hay, and thought about how great that mango tasted.

I was really starting to believe that maybe I had died the night before and gone to heaven.

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