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

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  1,119 ratings  ·  198 reviews
Whether acclaimed food writer Madhur Jaffrey was climbing the mango trees in her grandparents' orchard in Delhi or picnicking in the Himalayan foothills on meatballs stuffed with raisins and mint, tucked into freshly baked spiced pooris, today these childhood pleasures evoke for her the tastes and textures of growing up.

This memoir is both an enormously appealing account...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 9th 2007 by Vintage (first published October 6th 2005)
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Judy
May 13, 2013 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
Jennifer
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
mai ahmd
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...more
Abby
Jul 07, 2007 Abby rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Smitha
Nov 09, 2011 Smitha rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all Indians who love food
Shelves: solid, food, non-fiction
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...more
Suzanne
“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...more
Liza Passanisi
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...more
Rachel Brown
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...more
Adina
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...more
Denise
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
Patricia
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
Amanda
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....more
Kaye
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...more
Sofia
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
shruti
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.)
Evelyn Puerto
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.
Shirley Anstey
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
Ola
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
famouslastwords
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
Sophia
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
Michele
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
FicusFan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jen Mays
Memories are very much a sensory experience; a scent, a flavor, a particular flash of color can bring us back to a moment of our pasts and kindle all sorts of emotions. In this brief memoir, Madhur Jaffrey uses food as a medium for storytelling, enveloping the memorable events of her childhood with the heat of spices and tang of fruits. The traditions of her cultural and religious roots meld with samplings of Western influences as the pages of history are turned and the reader is invited into a...more
Donna
Jaffrey took me to a lost world: life in Delhi,pre and post partition, among her huge extended family who lived together/close by. Stories of food, fun and drama among her cousins, uncles and aunts are told from her child's perspective and later, her teen views. She gave me a child's view of how partition broke up life-long friendships with Muslim girls who had to leave suddenly and travel to safer places and how her school flooded with new students fleeing in the opposite direction.

A common thr...more
Judith
This is a really vivid view of India, as told through the eyes of a girl born in 1933 into a very wealthy and well-educated family. This book, for me breaks all stereotypes of an Indian girl during that time. Her parents insisted that she and her sisters be independent and well-educated, and she was raised in the lap of luxury. They wear a mixture of Indian and British clothing as suits their moods, and they are not segregated from boys or made to feel subservient. Her extended family lived in a...more
Steena
At the end of three chapters, I've decided to put down and return this disappointment of a book. Madhur Jaffrey rambling on in this book is an embarrassment to the eloquent the TV host Madhur Jaffrey that we're used to. This book is not about earthy every-day Indian cuisine but it is a memoir of an elitist household that hired "lower classes" to do their cooking for them. I wouldn't recommend this book if you are looking for something in the food memoir genre.
Chhaya
Hmmm. Madhur Jaffrey is a well-off Indian girl coming of age in New Delhi, India with a large extended family. This was a bunch of different stories all rolled into one: 1) a unique cultural history since India was going through enormous political upheaval in the 1940s, 2) a family drama which didn't pay off in such a way as to justify the build-up throughout, and a 3) mouth-watering foodie memoir. #1 and #3 were better than #2. I doubt I'd read the memoir again, but I'll definitely try the reci...more
Ali
This is a thoroughly enjoyable memoir, Madhur Jaffrey's descriptions of her family and their houses in Delhi and Kanpur are delightfully evocotive. Her life seems fairly idyllic for the most part - Madhur and her siblings enjoyed good relationships and good educations. I became quite fascinated by Madhur Jaffrey's Uncle Shibbudada, a slightly mysterious figure, who while being a magnet for children and adults alike, had a poor relationship with his own wife and children. This book however only t...more
Vasha7
Madhur Jaffrey, the actress, cook, and cookbook writer, gives us a pleasant but not briliant memoir of her childhood growing up in a wealthy, aristocratic, and enormous family in Delhi. There is some mention of the tensions caused by relations between family members, and some evocation of her emotional uncertainties as she grew, competently written enough. There is description of the luxury of the life they lived and of course, food is a recurring theme. Social and political conditions get a loo...more
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17693
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...
Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian: More Than 650 Meatless Recipes from Around the World Madhur Jaffrey Indian Cooking Madhur Jaffrey's World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian Cooking An Invitation to Indian Cooking

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