My brothers, sister and I grew up in St. Lucia before the advent of computers, mobile phones and for us, in what was as yet undiscovered St. Lucia, not even TV. Our summer holidays were lonngg! There were no summer clubs or organised activities for children. I can still remember saying in a very whiney voice “mummy I’m so bored. I don’t have anything to doooo…..”
The reality is we were blessed. We had a beach 5 minutes walk down the hill that did not yet have a hotel on it so we truly believed it was ours. We were also allowed to go there unaccompanied by any adults because no man or beast would have hurt us, and maybe more significantly, my mother was probably pulling her hair out with 4 free range children. However, the sea could be very rough at Golden Sands and there is a strong current at that beach. We survived. We had loads of fun! But, even the beach couldn’t hold our attention everyday. Fortunately life offers mangoes.
Mangoes are in the height of their season in late summer. As I’ve told you before, the family house that Mark and I moved out of in February of this year sits on a large piece of land with many fruit trees. There are at least 4 different varieties of mango trees that I can think of right now growing there. Imagine the time a child could spend working out how to (a) climb a tall tree (b) pick the fruit tantalising up there.
Mango chow is actually a Trinidad thing. My mother is Trinidadian. St.Lucians call this kind of pickled affair “mango salad.” It tastes almost soused and is such a nostalgic flavour. When I made this mango chow to show you, I seriously had to stop myself as I could easily have made myself sick.
Our friend Nicholas makes chow out of any fruit he gets his hands on. His “recipe” varies according to what is in the kitchen cupboard.
There isn’t a “recipe” per se. The only critical-ish ingredients are garlic, onion, seasoning peppers, salt, pepper sauce and vinegar. I added some chadon bene (coriander) to mine but that is a bit “outré.” The key thing is that when you eat a piece which has been soaking in the sauce for a little while, and you must pick carefully because often the whole seed is thrown in, it makes you make a most particular sound.
My sister and I have decided it is like a thwack. First, with your mouth closed but lips puckered, you create a tension, until the last minute when you pull apart the suction you have built thereby making the thwack!! sound.
There are however very strict rules applied to mango chow………
- You can pick from any tree but you must not use Julie mangoes for chow. That…..according to the gospel according to my mother was utterly sacrilegious. Julie mangoes come from a grafted tree and as such are precious. Their flavour is sublime and stringiness is minimal.
- You must only eat mango chow with your fingers. No cutlery allowed
- Only the brave add pepper sauce
- Don’t eat so much you get a tummy ache and your mother gets to say “chile I tole you to stop eatin’ that chow!!”
- Make sure the mangoes you pick are green but full and mature as the aforementioned mother will again say “chile that mango is even too green for chow and will tie up your mouth and give you tummy ache!”
When you have added the garlic, onion, peppers, pepper sauce, chadon bene, salt and vinegar you will need to add some water to create the sauce.
Fruit such as mangoes and pomme cytere or golden apple are sold in small plastic bags to school children now and are simply called “in da sauce”
Try not to think about the other added “flavourings” that become part of the sauce as a hoard of rangy children repeatedly dip their grubby fingers in, rootle around, suck the sauce off of them and rootle around for a second, third, fourth piece of chow.