So I’ve done a 180 on mango, y’all.
If you’d asked me last year what fruits I enjoyed, I’d have said, “All of them . . . except mango. It’s got a weird ‘off’ taste to it, and I don’t like it.” Of course, I haven’t tried every single fruit in the world, much less all the varieties of each fruit! (On the “haven’t tried” list: persimmon, pawpaw, custard-apple, feijoa, jackfruit, pitanga, quince, sapodilla, sapote, tamarind, soursop, rambutan, dragonfruit, pomelo. I’ve also never eaten fresh dates or figs, though I do like them dried. I have eaten gooseberry preserves, but not fresh gooseberries.) I have, however, eaten such unusual fruits as uglifruit (Jamaican tangelo), pluots/apriums, carambolas (starfruit), guavas, lychees, papayas, fresh blackcurrants, and boysenberries.
I mean, I’m not as limited as Taz, who, despite all my efforts to accustom him to different tastes, will only eat apples, grapes, and canned mandarin oranges. It’s sad.
But mangoes? Bleah. Too much, um, whang. (“Whang” is a slangy southern word that refers to a taste that isn’t what it should be and indicates that the particular food you’re eating may not be fresh, or that the food is considerably more sour or bitter than you were expecting. See this short clip from Sh%t Southern Women Say, starting at about 1:19, for more.)
Plant Medicine News breaks down the scent of mangoes, listing the chemical names of the aroma compounds and their qualities. I won’t get all sciencey on you and share the chemical names, but the scent descriptors range from peach, fruity, pineapple, cucumber, green, caramel, maple, and coconut to sulfurous, terpenaceous, vinegar, cabbage, barnyard, metallic, sweaty and rancid, with cooked rice, cooked potato, and hay somewhere in the middle.
I’m pretty sure I was getting a lot of sulfur and terpene, and maybe a tad of rancidity out of mangoes — in short, whatever it is that makes tropical fruit smell and taste, you know, exotic and weird and tropical. (As Luca Turin asks in his review of Fraiche Passiflora in Perfumes: The Guide, “How do fruits know when they’re in exotic places? Who taught them to samba?”) I was not a fan of mango.
However, last week, I was at the grocery store buying ingredients for fajitas because I had run across a new fajita marinade recipe from Isabel Eats, and I saw a different variety of mango than I had tried before. The only mangoes I was familiar with were the large red-and-green ones, and these were smaller, S-shaped, a uniform gold color. I bought two on impulse, largely because my mother used to buy odd fruit at the grocery store in order to let us kids try something new. (I still remember my first taste of kiwifruit. I was twelve. YUM.) These mangoes were a tiny bit wrinkled, and they smelled delicious and ripe.
I looked up the technique for slicing mangoes on Mango.org, and found that the golden mangoes I’d bought were the Honey or Ataulfo variety, as opposed to the Haden or Tommy Atkins varieties I had eaten before. Ataulfo mangoes are generally known to be sweeter and less fibrous than other varieties, and have a thin cling-free pit. They also have less of the “whang” I found so objectionable in the past. My first taste of the Ataulfo was sheer heaven. Sure, there was a tiny undecided moment of wait-is-this-thing-rotting?-oh-I-guess-it-isn’t, but I came down on the side of finding it addictive.
The very next day I went back to the store and bought more, after reading that June is the last peak month for Ataulfos. Now I’m hooked. The CEO likes mangoes — he says, “Eleven million fruit bats can’t be wrong,” — and Gaze, who is a Fruit Omnivore and will probably be in Tropical Fruit Heaven while he’s in the Philippines later this month, doing ROTC training, does too. Bookworm and Taz? Big nopes. Taz wouldn’t even try them, and Bookworm is overcome by the Dreaded Whang. Which, you know, I get, even if I have come around on the edge of possible wrongness that probably comes from those sulfur compounds.
I keep thinking of a Perfume Posse post in which March rhapsodized over the angelic dichotomy of lush almost-decay that is a perfectly-ripe mango, but I cannot find it. This happens to me pretty frequently. I was sure that Abigail of I Smell Therefore I Am posted about the first Ines de la Fressange, because whatever it was that I remembered her saying about it was what made me buy a 1-oz. bottle from Fragrancenet for like $12 in 2010. As it turns out, I can no longer find that post, or another perfume blog post at all on the subject. There are two from Perfume Posse, actually, but both of them also mention the second Ines de la Fressange fragrance, and neither is the ode that I remember reading. So huh. Did I imagine reading posts back in the day, or have they simply disappeared in the interim?
Anyway, back to perfume: now I want a mango perfume, complete with ripe juiciness and that subtle hint of danger. Jo Loves makes two mango scents, but because they haven’t yet gotten a US distributor, I can’t sample either one. (I could buy a bottle online untested, but that seems idiotic, not to mention spendy.) Then there’s a Pacifica Brazilian Mango Grapefruit, and Parfums de Nicolai, which is now to be known as Nicolai Parfumeur Createur, did an eau fraiche with mango that somebody (Robin of Now Smell This, maybe? Eau Exotique?) loved, but the PdN is discontinued. There are a bunch of mango solifruit fragrances by outfits like Demeter and The Body Shop, but I don’t know how good they are or how long they’d last. Vilhelm Parfumerie makes something called Mango Skin which sounds great, but it’s Vilhelm and it’s niche, so it is certain to be more expensive than I really want. Ditto for Manguier Metisse by Pierre Guillaume’s Huitieme Arte brand. Neela Vermeire’s Bombay Bling is fabulous, but also probably out of my price range. Nava at Perfume Posse mentioned that Ed Hardy’s Hearts & Daggers for Women smelled to her like Thai mango salad, minus the onion and hot pepper. That appeals, and it’s a cheapie brand. Wonder if my Wal-Mart would have a tester for it?
All this despite my conviction that I have more perfume than I need to finish out my life. Shrug. I’ll probably look for a mango scent desultorily until I give up on finding The One, and by then I’ll be craving something else.
Maybe just those Ataulfo mangoes. I will fight you for them.
(Incidentally, those fajitas were fabulous. Make them now.)