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Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India

3.65  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,389 Ratings  ·  237 Reviews
Today's most highly regarded writer on Indian food gives us an enchanting memoir of her childhood in Delhi in an age and a society that has since disappeared.

Madhur (meaning "sweet as honey") Jaffrey grew up in a large family compound,where her grandfather often presided over dinners at which forty or more members of his extended family would savor together the wonderfully
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 10th 2006 by Knopf (first published October 6th 2005)
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May 13, 2013 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Around the World Readers
Recommended to Judy by: Amanda
I picked this book up thinking any book that my daughter recommends, contains food, is a memoir (one of my favorite genres) and takes the reader to a foreign land, has to be worth a read. Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India did not disappoint.

Right off the top, I want to say that I don't foresee every reader liking this book because it is not a swashbuckling venture through India. This book is a slow-cooker and it never comes to boil. What it is is a delightful feast that
mai ahmd
Mar 12, 2012 mai ahmd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
لمن لا يعرف مادهور جافري فهي واحدة من أهم النساء الهنديات اللاتي كتبن موسوعات في كتب الطبخ الهندي ولاقت شهرة واسعة في الولايات المتحدة كما ساعدها في ذلك زوجها الأمريكي عازف الكمان

تقول إحدى قارئات هذا الكتاب إنها خذلت تماما كونها ليست مهتمة بعائلة مادهور وإحداهن تقول إنها اعتبرت هذا الكتاب خدعة

غير إن هذا الكتاب في رأيي يمثل أكثر من مجرد سيرة شخصية وحنين إلى حياة الطفولة الكتاب يوضح أنماط معيشة الأسر الهندية ذات الطابع الممتد الذي يحوي الجدات والعمات والخالات والأقارب إلخ إنه كتاب ذا طابع إجتماع
“My grandfather had built his house in what was once a thriving orchard of jujubes, mulberries, tamarinds, and mangoes. His numerous grandchildren, like hungry flocks of birds, attacked the mangoes while they were still green and sour. As grown-ups snored through the hot afternoons in rooms cooled with weeded, sweet-smelling vetiver curtains, the unsupervised children were on every branch of every mango tree, armed with a ground mixture of salt, pepper, red chilies, and roasted cumin.”

Is your m
Aug 13, 2011 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club-books
For fans of Madhur Jaffrey's cookbooks, this memoir will be, well, ... weird. I have been a fan for years, ever since I picked up one of her cookbooks while living in London. She has come to feel very much of a household presence for me, and I have felt intimately acquainted with her for years through cooking and eating her family's recipes. (Which are all DELICIOUS, by the way....) I had seen some excellent reviews of this memoir on amazon, and confidently suggested it to my book club when I sa ...more
Jul 07, 2007 Abby rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of The Namesake and cookbook/cooking memoirs
Shelves: non-fiction
I really enjoyed this book. The descriptions of the food and spices were so visceral. However, I was left wanting much much more from this so very capable author. Jaffrey can definitely write and write well, though there were moments of frustration when she would gloss over events that she had been hinting at for the last 100 pages. The prime example is her uncle Shibudada (if I remember the name correctly) and the rift that eventually happened between the uncle and his family and Jaffrey's fami ...more
Syl  ʃʃ^.^ʃʃ
Nov 09, 2011 Syl ʃʃ^.^ʃʃ rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all Indians who love food
Shelves: solid, non-fiction, food
I devoured this book. This was a nostalgic journey through the privileged India of the early twentieth century. I got so engrossed, it was as if I had metamorphosed into the young girl who ran around orchids and kitchens and large rooms, ever inquisitive and all-absorbing. This book has rich descriptions of the food, heritage, lifestyle and architecture of the older India. One amusing thing is that, so far I was under the impression that Madhur Jaffrey is a famous Indian male chef and I was shoc ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
An enjoyable read with some mouth-watering family recipes (or near equivalents) at the back. I only knew Jaffrey from her cooking programmes of the 1980s on the BBC--and her publishers' penchant for re-issuing the same collection of recipes over and over at ten-year intervals, under different titles and with slight differences in illustrations and front matter.

The child of privileged parents of the administrative caste in Delhi, Jaffrey takes us into their world of family compounds, shared meal
Liza Passanisi
Jul 13, 2008 Liza Passanisi rated it did not like it
What on earth... so many favorable reviews. I had to give it one star because there wasn't a BARF option. I'm quite mature and eloquent, I know - no need to respond.

This book as concept sounds great - portrait of an extended family living on one compound under a patriarch, during partition and told from the p.o.v. of a foodie (as I understand it, Jaffrey is the Martha Stewart of Indian cookbooks). So far, I'm totally on board.

And then I have to read the words as Jaffrey has assembled them and go
Rachel Brown
Jul 26, 2012 Rachel Brown rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, india, food
A food-centric memoir of growing up in a huge Indian family in and around Delhi. Jaffrey became a teenager when India got its independence - a time of joy and horror, as the country gained its freedom and then tore itself apart in the violence that came with Partition.

But Jaffrey's childhood was more happy than not, despite the presence of a low-key but appalling family rift caused by an uncle's emotional abuse of his own children and favoritism of some of his nieces and nephews. There's not a l
Aug 03, 2010 Adina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I like books about food. I like books about India. and I like a good "growing up in ___" story. But this book didn't really any of these things well. There are many ellipses and allusions when it comes to the real drama. They are taken up but then brushed aside with a description of tomato ginger potatoes.
I loved the food description, and even how the culinary tradition of Delhi changed after partition (from dominantly muslim cuisine of the old city to creamy Punjabi). But partition, which she n
Oct 30, 2009 Denise rated it it was ok
I liked the idea of this book, a memoir of a childhood in India, but the execution left things to be desired. Ms. Jaffrey grew up in a very wealthy family during the British rule of India and experienced the changeover to Indian self-rule. But many important things were glossed over and instead the focus was an artistic version of her wonderful childhood. It was interesting, but not important. The thing that does stand out in the book is the authors descriptions of food. I really don't have much ...more
Dec 30, 2008 Patricia rated it liked it
Shelves: food, india
Madhur Jaffrey's clear, delicious, and reliable recipes are much loved at our house. The memoir also reflects her talent for clear and evocative writing. Jaffrey vividly conveys pleasures of taste and color. The memoir was frustratingly choppy though. Even the frequently evoked themes of learning and taste didn't quite manage to hold to together fascinating but disparate themes. The chapters usually fell into short chunks that often skimmed across topics that deserved more thorough development. ...more
Sep 10, 2010 Amanda rated it it was ok
After coming to the near-end of chapter seven and still not finding the story compelling, I have decided to stop climbing the mango trees. I rarely stop reading a book with the intention of never picking it up again but I don't think I will continue this one. If you have read it and think I should keep going, let me know!

It was interesting to read about the lives of wealthy Indians, as so many stories focus on the tragic poor of that nation. The family was sweet and the food references were fun.
For Madhur Jaffrey cooking fans, this is an interesting read, the story of her early life in India. The descriptions of food are especially good, of course, as well as the look at daily life in a well-to-do family. There are some tempting family recipes included.

Small sections of the book are quite chatty and read nicely, but the book doesn't hang together. It feels like scraps of writing hastily thrown together. An editor to help with the structure and a proofreader to help with typos and gram
Feb 26, 2012 Sofia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: india, memoir, foodie-fun
An entertaining glimpse into Brahmin Indian life with, as expected, a dominant interplay of food. What a period to have grown up in India - the time of Partition - and what a lifestyle - picnics of 50 caravanning with servants to the hill country; extensive, planned gardens with flowers, fruits and vegetables galore; private performances of music, dance and theater... And as expected, the traditional, multi-generation, extended-family living virtually together with the resulting joys and complex ...more
Dec 22, 2008 shruti rated it it was amazing
We all know Madhur Jaffrey can write a mean cookbook and we all know she can act. But did you know she can write beautiful prose too? This memoir of her childhood is richly evocative, sprinkled with memories of family and food and everything in between. And food, oh the food. Do NOT read this book hungry, it will cause you to arrive at your destination and demand to be fed immediately (not that I did that or anything.)
Sep 26, 2014 Melody rated it liked it
This book was as sweet and lovely as the mangoes in the title. It was a heartwarming story of renowned India cook and actress Madhur Jaffrey's childhood and adolescence in mid-20th century India. It provided an elegant portrait of a time and place that seems far away, but for anyone who is familiar with India in some way, whether through travel or literature, you will smell a hint of the beautiful, warming aromas that have influenced the subcontinent today. You will also read her first-person ac ...more
Evelyn Puerto
Jun 28, 2013 Evelyn Puerto rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
Written by a food writer, Climbing the Mango Trees paints a vivid picture of growing up in India. I could almost smell the food cooking. Unlike many other memoirs, there doesn’t seem to be an overall theme. Rather, the book just covers the author’s memories. However, the vivid writing brought back my own memories of India and gave a wonderful look at everyday life.
This is an interesting description of a wealthy upbringing in India and of the experience of partition for a child. There are many references to food and recipes at the end. I missed any mention of India's poor.
Anne Stephenson
Jan 28, 2016 Anne Stephenson rated it liked it
Shelves: food
I enjoyed reading this memoir for its focus on family, food and history. I know little about India's history and found it fascinating to see its impact shaping family and culture. I want to know more about the author past the book's timeline. At the end of the story, I found myself thinking, oh no, this is it! I guess that's good the author left me hungry for more at the end--the makings of a good story. I was pleasantly surprised to see the recipes included after the book's conclusion. (I shoul ...more
محمد المرزوقي
وجدت هذا الكتاب بالصدفة أثناء تجولي في أحد المكتبات وشد إنتباهي انه كان من إصدار دار كلمة وهي دار مهتمة بترجمة الكتب العالمية المهمة الى اللغة العربية فشجعني هذا على اقتناءه وكذلك شجعني موضوع الكتاب نفسه والذي يتحدث عن فترة مهمة من تاريخ الهند المعاصرة.
للاسف لم اجد الكتاب بتلك الفخامة التى توقعتها فهو مجرد مذكرات كثيرة الحشو لإحدى الفتيات الهنديات حول الكثير من تفاصيل حياتها اليومية والتى لاتهمني كثيرا، هناك ذكر لبعض الأحداث السياسية المهمة ولكن الكاتبة ذكرتها بسطحية .
الأسلوب نفسه غير مشوق وقد
Jul 17, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing
An absolutely delightful memoir, tinged with a hint of sadness, about the author's life in pre-partition India. While she would become best known as an author of cookbooks, this book is not primarily about cooking-it's clear how much she loves the food of multinational India at the time. But really this book is a love letter to the multi-ethnic world of an upscale and highly educated Delhi dweller of that time, in which she associated with her Muslim school friends - and their savory meat dishes ...more
Jun 03, 2014 Ola rated it really liked it
I really, really enjoyed the book. It's a very absorbing read, yet slow and utterly delicious (made me hungry all the time!). A fascinating read for someone who's never been in that part of the world, though I have an issue with the way some facts are presented in the book - the author was born and raised in a rather - despite certain tragedies - privileged family, so it gets too idyllic at times. Too embellished, I'd say (especially in terms of some practices, like arranged marriage, or the cas ...more
Oct 21, 2014 Cheri rated it liked it
You'd think a memoir by a renowned chef would at least touch on how she became interested in cooking, but in fact the book ends with Jaffrey heading off to drama school and not knowing how to cook. Nonetheless, I enjoyed seeing life in India during independence and partition through the eyes of a child. Rich details -- classmates' burqas hanging on the walls, living in a family compound, helping the gardener, attending a funeral, learning British literature in Delhi -- gave me a sense of India t ...more
Kate North
Jul 11, 2015 Kate North rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm not a big reader of non-fiction, as you'll have gathered by now, and I'm really not keen on biography, but I do enjoy the occasional memoir/travel book, especially when it involves food. This was a very light memoir about Madhur Jaffrey's childhood in India, very readable and with lots of descriptions of food. I read most of it yesterday afternoon sitting in the sunshine on the patio (an appropriate place to do so, I think!) and finished it off today at Alex's swimming lesson. Some family re ...more
Nov 02, 2014 Karla rated it it was ok
‘Climbing the Mango Trees’, Madhur Jaffrey (2.5)
I found this book to be a bit milquetoast for me. It came across as a privileged memoir of the idyllic and not particularly interesting life of an Indian chef/actress. She describes her storybook life growing up near New Delhi during the 40’s and 50’s. Even though this covers WWII and the partition of India and Pakistan, she keeps it light and fluffy. Only one member of her family (a selfish Uncle) comes across as anything less than a perfect examp
Jun 03, 2014 thelastword rated it did not like it
I regretted buying this book. The title, cover, and synopsis were all massively deceiving. The story is incoherent and the recipes are so sparse and simple that I felt cheated even though I bought it on sale. The writer could not stop droning on about how proud she was of the particular 'caste' she belongs to. A system that no-one should ever be allowed to talk about with such disturbing relish. At one point she managed a disparaging remark about Hijabis and that was pretty much all we saw about ...more
Madhur Jaffrey first came to my attention in the 1980s, initially as an actress in the Merchant Ivory film ‘Heat and Dust‘ and then through her popular Indian Cookery Series on the BBC. I still have and use the book which accompanied the series called, simply, Indian Cooking along with a second book, beautifully illustrated with colour plates as well as recipes, called A Taste of India and a slim booklet produced by the BBC for the series Flavours of India containing a few ‘taster’ recipes from ...more
Jun 05, 2012 Sophia rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir, food
A little piecemeal, but given that it's a memoir I found that I didn't mind so much; I found that if I simply approached it as a collection of vignettes it moved in roughly chronological order and that was enough even if the structure falls apart a little towards the end. Jaffrey's stories are very engaging and since I know absolutely nothing about early 20th century history in India, everything she wrote was alien and interesting to me. Warning: do not read this book if you are hungry. Do not r ...more
Mar 15, 2012 Michele rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-of-2012
A happy childhood in India? That right there is a huge plus in reading this book. They are certainly few and far between. I loved this book. Loved her writing style, so classy and so sophisicated. Loved the "foodie" aspects as well. She captures so elegantly how food is such a strong part of our memories. My Mom had a lot of kids. She raised most of us on hamburger gravy. I no longer will eat it, but I can walk into her home and smell some and a wave of memories come back to me. I want to sit do ...more
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Madhur Jaffrey is the person who brought curries into the mainstream with her 1973 debut book An Invitation to Indian Cookery.
More about Madhur Jaffrey...

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