Today’s most highly regarded writer on Indian food gives us an enchanting memoir of her childhood in Delhi in an age and a society that has since disappeared.
Madhur (meaning “sweet as honey”) Jaffrey grew up in a large family compound where her grandfather often presided over dinners at which forty or more members of his extended family would savor together the wonderfully flavorful dishes that were forever imprinted on Madhur’s palate.
Climbing mango trees in the orchard, armed with a mixture of salt, pepper, ground chilies, and roasted cumin; picnicking in the Himalayan foothills on meatballs stuffed with raisins and mint and tucked into freshly fried pooris; sampling the heady flavors in the lunch boxes of Muslim friends; sneaking tastes of exotic street fare—these are the food memories Madhur Jaffrey draws on as a way of telling her story. Independent, sensitive, and ever curious, as a young girl she loved uncovering her family’s many-layered history, and she was deeply affected by their personal trials and by the devastating consequences of Partition, which ripped their world apart.
Climbing the Mango Trees is both an enormously appealing account of an unusual childhood and a testament to the power of food to evoke memory. And, at the end, this treasure of a book contains a secret ingredient—more than thirty family recipes recovered from Madhur’s childhood, which she now shares with us.