The Guardian, Books
Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey (Ebury, £7.99)
Review by Jo Littler
Whereas Anthony Bourdain tries to thrust his big cooking spoon into the baddest places, Madhur Jaffrey uses her culinary equipment to tantalise the senses. Climbing the Mango Trees is the latest offering in the increasingly popular genre of gastrobiography. It evocatively details her childhood in British Delhi: the picnics at the foothills of the Himalayas, learning to swim using a watermelon as a float, the milk drink left outside overnight to catch the morning dew. The book is written with the measured cadences of someone brought up as "a privileged product of British colonial India" and topped with a generous serving of 32 recipes. Jaffrey often discusses food by describing her family. Her mother's parents live modestly near "the lane of fried breads", whereas, in her father's "la-de-da" family, the servants make pakoris. This book becomes richer and deeper as it progresses, as Jaffrey relates these experiences to broader social contexts: of being forced to make imperial food at school (like blancmange, that "British food for invalids"), and the changing contents of lunchboxes during partition.