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Monday, April 16, 2012

Sweet Sunshine

I shared some of our Florida days with a woman who I hope has impacted me for life, and not just for the Passover week. This 78-year-old widow has happiness imbibed into her bones. Life has tried to remove it out of her with many sad events and hardships, but it's been unsuccessful. She smiles, she laughs, she deals with everything and everyone with patience, and thankfulness, with sweetness, fun, laughter and courage. As if everything were an award or a privilege. In short, she's like a ray of sunshine.
She's chatty, warm, helpful and considerate. She goes to the gym and lifts weights. She's independent and travels visiting her children overseas. She talks to everyone with joy. From the bus driver to the policeman, the chashier, my children and me.
I'm glad I'm writing down all this, because every time I think that things are hard or not fair, I can come back to this post and remember how life doesn't justify grumpiness.
She told us this story. It gave me goosebumps, made my heart clap, and I need to share it.
Many years ago, while her beloved husband was in the hospital being treated for the disease that eventualy took his life, she got home one night to have a couple of hours of sleep before going back to see him. Suddenly, she saw a gigantic black moth in her living room. She was terrified by the winged insect. Her first instinct was to ask her husband to get rid of it. He couldn't help her. He couldn't be there. And that's when it happened: she realized that she had to be in charge of her life. She missed him terribly already, and he wasn't even gone then, but she realized exactly at that moment, that she had to learn to rely on herself. She had to be there for herself, as no one else would be able to do it.
She made two holes on a pillowcase and put it on her head as a protective mask (alternatively, the moth could think she was a ghost and run away). She wrapped her hands and with her heart pounding hard, she chased the invador with a broom. After swinging her weapon for a bit, she eventually got the moth and discarded it. She was sad but triumphant, and that feeling pushed her forward. She had conquered her own fear of being by herself. The moth was like the loneliness that she was fearing was aproaching her life at a fast pace, but she found out that being alone and lonely was not the same thing and she trusted herself with the responsibility of moving forward despite whatever the future had in store for her.
Between giggles and pain, we all listened, and I think it left us all thinking and hopefully, remembering a story that changed our attitude forever.
I went grocery shopping with her the other day and I found Mexican mangoes in the fruit section. When I saw them, I thought to myself: if this lady were a fruit, she would be one of those species: sweet, bright, soft, full of flavor, interesting, and you'd enjoy them any time of the day, again, like a ray of sunshine.
I try to buy local produce as often as I can, but I'm partial to my imported Mexican mangoes. I've adored  them since I was a little girl. When I go home to visit my grandmother, she always makes sure there are dozens of them waiting for me, and that's basically what I eat for the whole trip.
In the US the Ataulfo variety is the most common, but I don't really select them for their specific variety. I just make sure they come from Mexico and that they are the yellow, smaller kind. Some mangoes from places like Haiti look the same but are completely different in both, flavor and texture. So I insist: make sure they are Mexican!

Two years ago I turned my friend T into a Mex-mango convert, and since then, when spring starts and the taxi-yellow hued fruit begins showing up in street stands, we play mango treasure hunt via text messages letting each other know where we found the perfectly ripe ones. We keep it going until it's evident the season is over, but let's not think about that yet. We have to enjoy them while they are here!
Mangoes are not only delicious. They are also full of nutrients: They are high in fiber, vitamins A, C and E, and other antioxidant phytochemicals, that can have protective qualities against different types of cancer. They a good source of vitamin B6, potassium and copper. And it's also been suggested that including mangoes in our diet might help reduce body fat and control blood sugar. Did I mention they are considered an aphrodisiac??? More on that coming up in a future post!

MANGO SALAD

This is a refreshing and healthy dish. Perfect for the warm months. You can serve it on top of grilled fish or chicken, or add some cooked black beans to it to make it more fulfilling and increase its protein and iron content. If you mix it with some cubed sushi-quality tuna, it makes an awesome ceviche. Also, it takes heat really well, so some chopped serranos or any other chiles could be a great addition.
I used some local purple radish shoots that I found in Florida. They were gorgeous, super tasty, and are incredibly healthy. Use them if you find them, but don't worry if you don't. Other shoots or micro greens would be great too.

INGREDIENTS

  • Vegetarian (contains honey)
  • Free of: gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and nuts
  • Super ingredients: all of them! This salad is full of vitamins, fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants and good fats

3 Mexican mangoes, peeled, pitted and cubed
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, torn into small pieces
1/2 cup purple radish shoots (or any other kind of shoots or micro greens)
1/2 onion, finelly chopped
1 tomato, cubed
2 lemons, juiced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
1 tablespoon raw honey, or to taste
Course sea salt, to taste

METHOD

In a medium bowl, mix all the fruits and vegetables with the lemon juice, using a spatula. Be very gentle, as you don't want the avocado to turn into guacamole!
Add oil, honey and a bit of salt. Mix again and taste. Readjust seasoning and serve (or change according to the variations suggested above).

It can be refrigerated for a couple of hours. The acidity of the lemon, the mango and the tomato, keep the avocado bright and green.

Serves 4

Enjoy!

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