This write-up narrates the memory of summer holidays I enjoyed in my maternal grandparents home in Ankola, typified by appe midi back in the 1990s
Introduction to Appe midi
Known in the Kannada language, these are tender unripened mangoes. A variety of wild mangoes found in the Western Ghats (malnad) and Coastal (karavali) Karnataka, predominately in the Uttara Kannada district. They grow in places of heavy rainfall mainly on river banks. They come in an array of different aromas, taste, size and shelf life. Pickle industries have added a commercial value to the commodity. Pickles made from this variety offer a heavenly delight, mostly enjoyed with rice meals. This genetic variety is recently dwindling. There is a need to create an awareness to conserve this unique mango variety and develop sustainable methods for their cultivation and harvest.
It is one of those fond memories from my childhood. The year-end examinations in our schools mostly coincided with the mango-flowering season. Summer vacations that followed saw mangoes in full bloom. My mom, Indu took my brother, Puneet and me to our grandparents’ house in Ankola every summer. It was often a rendezvous with our cousins who also came down from different cities to ‘aayi mane’ (grandma’s house). It all revolved around my grandma whom we fondly called aayi and grandpa, dada.
Photo clips of Dada and Aayi
Dada was well-read. He spent his retirement days mostly reading books and gardening. His garden provided us rich fruits like mangoes, jack fruit, coconut, chiku, banana and guava and fresh flowers for the daily Pooja (worship). A beautiful Tulsi plant adorned their frontyard. This holy seat was referred to as Tulsi-katte. My grandparents religiously performed the Pooja every mornings and evenings. The evening bhajans (devotional songs) were a family event when we sang in chorus with aayi. The rhythmic metallic sounds produced by the tala, which aayi used while singing bhajans, sent sacred vibrations down our spines. Those vibrations have long followed me and the ritual has survived in our families. Every summer, Dada diligently got ready the Chapra (a shelter roof made of coconut leaves in front of the house) so that his grand-kids stayed protected from sun-burns during outdoor activities. So thoughtful of him!
Aayi showered her love on us through the delicious lip-smacking dishes she relentlessly prepared to keep all of us well-fed and well-nourished. Her signature dishes included the delectable fish curry, rave laadu, doodh peda, appe midi uppinakayi (pickle) to name a few. There was no refrigerator at home those days. She visited the local market every day to buy fresh vegetables and fish. I remember accompanying her on most days to the market. I was often rewarded with the kari ishaad variety of juicy mangoes, that she bought me on our way back home. My joy then was unparalleled.
Mango is a celebrated fruit in India. No wonder, it’s our National fruit. It’s very thought nurtures delicious memories. I recall a huge mango tree that stood in the compound. How we prayed for winds with utmost sincerity, so that the succulent mangoes fell from trees. The thud sound of the fall was an alert to get us on feet. We ran around searching for mangoes. An immense feeling of victory and pride would rush upon the one who could spot a fallen mango! That lucky fellow had the privilege of eating the mango pulp while the rest not-so-lucky ones would be consolidated with mango peels. Nonetheless, sharing is caring!
‘We the kids’ Photo Courtesy: My cousin Deepu’s dad, H. K. Naik uncle (Retd. Headmaster) Ankola
Most days I enjoyed being an observer of the household activities unfolding in aayi mane. One such revered activity was pickle-making. Aayi would carefully select appe midis from the market. The mangoes were washed and cleaned dry. They were then marinated with rock salt and kept air-tight in ceramic clay jars called Bharani for several days. These jars had a mouth-watering sight when opened after a week’s time. The tiny mangoes completely soaked in salt solution. It’s amazing how the water oozes out from a high concentration inside the mangoes to a lower concentration outside thereby diluting the salt. Aayi then prepared the masala containing byadagi variety of dry red chillies, turmeric powder, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds all in their right proportions and blended the masala together with the mango brine. This mango mixture was allowed to ‘sit’ for a couple of weeks and voila! The gorgeous yummy pickle with the exquisite aroma was ready to be savored.
I buy myself a bottle of ready-made pickle these days. In spite of the perfect ingredients, the bite to me is devoid of a certain taste, a taste that I crave from my childhood. If salt got the mangoes cured into pickle, it was aayi’s love and warmth that gave it the extraordinary taste. I wish the appe midi mangoes survive the test of time, energizing taste-buds and re-kindling fond memories for eons to come. These mangoes have certainly added rich flavor to my childhood.
— Pooja Shivanand