The Mango Omen


The sweet aroma lingered in my nostrils every time I passed the kitchen.

The mango was ripe, borderline, too ripe. Had my husband had his way, the mango would have found its way into the garbage. It wasn’t a beautiful, red orange mango; it was almost entirely speckled black, and much too soft after days of sitting on the counter, waiting to be consumed.

Nevertheless, “waste not want not”, I was going to make a batido de mango.

I placed all the essential ingredients on the counter.

  • 1 large, overly ripe mango
  • 1 can of evaporated milk, any brand (need about 4 oz)
  • Philadelphia Cream Cheese, personal preference, but any brand will do (about 2 ounces or 4 Tbsp)
  • sugar (1/4th cup)
  • salt (about a pinch-less than a penny sized amount)

I never understood the science behind the pinch of salt, but I’ve always added it, as per my mom, “porque le saca el dulce”.

I dug through my kitchen drawers and cabinets for the essential tools.

  • a really sharp, serrated knife
  • peeler
  • measuring cup
  • can opener
  • cutting board
  • paper towels, because there’s nothing messier than peeling/eating a mango
  • blender, of course

I opened the trash bin, and proceeded to turn the mango over in my hands, gently, as to not further bruise it, and decided I’d start by cutting off the top from where it had once hung low from my parent’s mango tree. After making a nice flat cut, I placed the mango on its head, so to speak, and tried to peel the skin, but it was so ripe, the skin and meat became mush in the peeler.

I reached for the sharp serrated knife instead. I cradled the mango in my left palm, and with my right began carefully cutting through the skin from the top of the mango towards myself. Watching my mom cut mangos, I always worried she’d slice straight through her hand, but she never did. She somehow always knew just how close the blade could press into her thumb without breaking the skin.

Once all the sides were peeled, I put the mango on its flat top. I was surprised to see it was nearly blemish free beneath its skin-only a few dark spots which I cut away before cutting the long strips to place in the blender. The sweet aroma continued to fill the kitchen as I cut down each side, getting close to, but feeling my way around the seed.

I decided to put the mango pieces in the freezer for 20 mins, even though I’d still be adding ice to the blender later. I remembered the ziplocks of mangos my mom stored in the freezer when I was growing up. There were years when we had so many mangos they would spoil and go to waste if we couldn’t eat them or give them away. Sometimes our mango trees gave plenty, other times my uncle’s trees were more fruitful. We traded many grocery bags full of mangos over the years. Oftentimes, we cut them up and froze the pieces for a later date, when mangos would be out of season.

Once the mango pieces were nice and cold, I put them in the blender, and added the other ingredients. Not listed above was a cup, or half a cup, of ice. For those with varying cup sizes, a red solo cup’s worth of ice will do.

My mouth watered as I watched the ingredients swirling in the blender, and I recalled Sunday afternoons, enjoying a refreshing batido at my parent’s house. My dad likes it to be very sweet, so my mom would always add more sugar, another half a pack of creamcheese, and even leche condensada. #BatidoDeDiabetes

My father checked on the mango trees or tree, depending on the previous hurricane season, each Sunday. In a large laundry basket, we collected the ones that had fallen to the ground before hungry rodents could get to them.

He often repeated an old campesino saying “Mucho Mango, Mucha Hambre”; if there were a lot of mangos one season, then that year there would also be a lot of hunger, poverty, and so on. Unfortunately, there were many years in Cuba where crops went to waste simply because the “administration” wouldn’t allow for their harvesting, or provide a means to get those crops to the markets. In fact, they would punish those who tried to harvest the crops, whether they were doing so to feed their own families or to sell on the black market. This meant there was plenty to consume, yet an abundance of hunger.

Even though we didn’t count on mangos for our staple meal, or really any essential part of our diet, my dad looked at the blossoms, plentiful or dismal, as an omen of sorts. If a lot of flowers bloomed in the spring, more flowers meant more mangos, more mangos meant more hunger, despair, or troubles in general- bittersweet signs from nature about the year to come.

I served a glass for my husband and myself. As I drank, I thought about the blossoms from this past spring. I did not see them with my own eyes, but I am certain the mango trees were full of flowers.

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