I can still smell and taste my grandma’s best mango pickle when I remember summers as a kid: pickle slathered over a roti wrapped into an afternoon snack, pickle oil blended with potatoes and onions to go with rice and dal, or just pickle straight up. My grandmother, who disliked cooking and took on every other menial chore in the home to avoid kitchen work, made the finest pickles I’ve ever tasted. It’s a shame she passed away before passing on her recipes. But more than the recipes, I remember her sitting in the sun, dressed in a snow-white pristine cotton saree, delicately sprinkling the turmeric powder and salt over what appeared to be a tonne of green mango cubes. The aroma of mango and turmeric floated off the balcony, signalling to the neighbours that we were in for a pleasant and prosperous year.
I remember tiptoeing on the mud roofs with siblings and friends after the women in the house had dozed off after a day of hard work, it taught us love and connection. We carefully dipped our hands into the not-yet-ready mason jars and ate way too much, leaving a glaringly empty space in the jars. It also taught us how to extort candy, cassette tapes and movie posters from cousins and siblings by threatening to reveal their pickle-stealing stories.
I feel like we are the last generation between those who knew how to preserve food and fond memories associated with them. Now I’m concerned about future generations. With the practice of making mango achar dwindling, how will kids learn to share, keep secrets or create memorable summer memories? Will they forgive us if we fail to teach them the most fundamental and vital aspect of food preservation? Are we doing enough to preserve our culinary heritage? Have we not stopped learning the secrets behind the different well-known and well-loved but rapidly diminishing recipes (traditional Bengali recipes such as dhokar dalna, narkel naru, nimki, pithe, potoler dorma, tel koi, paturi, taler bora, bori, koraishutir kochuri, shukto, aam boal, and so on) Do we even speak with the generation of recipe guardians? I have yet to meet a member of my generation who makes their own pickles, and I believe it is past time to change that.
Let’s get started. Let’s chat to our grandparents, parents, aunts, and even neighbours to locate the most cherished achaar recipes. Let’s all post them here for everyone to see. In a time of increasing food insecurity and scarcity, it’s especially vital to remember our cooking and eating habits.
Here is my personal favourite easy recipe of my mother- Instant Mango Pickle which she makes quite often to quench our pickle thirst in the short lived Mango season.
INSTANT MANGO PICKLE
- 1 raw mango- medium size
- 1 tsp kashmiri red chilli powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp powdered sugar
To roast & grind:
- 1tbsp panch phoron
- 3 tbsp mustard oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 pinches hing
- Wash the raw mango thoroughly and pat it dry.
- Chop into bite sized pieces for better spread of the masalas
- Add salt to the mangoes.
- Mix it well and set aside.
- In a pan, dry roast panch phoron.
- Roast until the whole masalas turn aromatic
- Transfer it to a mixer, grind it to a coarse mixture.
- Heat mustard oil in kadai. Add mustard seeds and let it splutter slowly. Keep the flame on medium.
- Turn the flame to low. Add hing.
- Add panch phoron powder
- Add kashmiri chilli powder.
- Add turmeric powder and sugar powder. Switch off the flame.
- Mix it well.
- Transfer the tadka to the mangoes and mix thoroughly.
- Instant mango pickle is ready to enjoy. Best condiment for the curd rice, paratha.
You can also try the Mango Pickle made by our Didi using her authentic Maharashtrian recipe.