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

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  1,596 Ratings  ·  264 Reviews
From a highly regarded writer on Indian food comes this enchanting and delightful memoir of growing up in Delhi. An enormously appealing account of an unusual childhood, Jaffreys story is also a testament to the power of food to prompt memory. Whether acclaimed food writer Madhur Jaffrey was climbing the mango trees in her grandparents' orchard in Delhi or picnicking in th ...more
Paperback, 324 pages
Published October 9th 2007 by Vintage (first published October 6th 2005)
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Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 13, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
mai ahmd
Mar 07, 2012 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
Oct 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all Indians who love 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
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: indian, food
A warm and comforting read . I was reminded of my own ancestral home and the variety of dishes I had in my childhood. Loved the chapter construction (small chapters) and the titles of the chapters..
Jul 07, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  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
شيماء الوطني
هنا أنت تفتح حواسك لتتذوق وتشم وترى وتحس وتسمع ، أنت لا تقرأ تاريخ عائلة ولكنك تقرأ تاريخ أمة !
“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
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
بعد أربعمائة صفحة تحت ظلال الهند بين دلهي وكانبور حيث تقطن مع عائلة هندية لترى أسرارها ، تقاليدها ، طريقة العيش والأعياد والزيجات وكل تلك الطقوس والرحلات نحو جبال الهملايا ومراحل الحياة لمادور من الطفولة للمراهقة وسن الشباب ، الى ان أصبحت طباخة وأم مبهرة ، الكثير من الدهشة والأطباق اللذيذة بين طيات تسلق اشجار المانغا ، سيرة ذاتية لن تندم على قرائتها يوماً ما . ...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
Rachel Brown
Jul 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 22, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 03, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Liza Passanisi
Jul 13, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 26, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 23, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
Jul 07, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 05, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
after 30 pages already in love with this memoir. the author is a well known food and cookbook writer. she shares a unique childhood of life in Delhi and the memories that food can evoke. stunning, beautifully written, and i must go out now for some indian food...
Jan 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pleasant read. Different than many books about India because it is not Punjabi and not about the poor. It is about a girl growing up in a large extended family of the intellectual caste.
This was one of those books that really pulled you into the setting, which was India before (and after) partition. Not a place I knew anything about, but I could really see it after reading this book. There's lots of food in this book, but almost no cooking (there are some recipes at the end). That bit was kind of surprising to me.

Also the book just sort of ended, with almost a Larry McMurtry or Snow Crash suddenness. But overall very interesting and readable. A great experience of elsewhen, an
Interesting, sometimes funny, often mouth-watering, Madhur Jaffrey's memories in this book encompass her childhood and youth in Delhi with her very large family. Not only did I learn about making some of the dishes she remembers (recipes are included), but there is also the interwoven history of Delhi's multicultural makeup before and after India's independence. Turns out most of what I think of as "Indian food" is specifically Punjabi cuisine that became popular in Delhi after an influx of refu ...more
Vidhya Nair
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always been a fan of her cooking and her recipes. This was an enjoyable read. She writes with a distinctive style and has a familiar confidence I find endearing. She'll always be one of my favourite old dames who helped bring the glory of Indian cuisine to the world. I'm looking forward to trying out her recipes especially Shammi kebabs and saag gohst
Jul 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, place
This book was an incredibly endearing memoir of Madhur's childhood in India that manages to be both exotic and familiar at the same time. However, I wanted the book to be something more. Madhur is an incredible writer. Her prose flows effortlessly and engages all of your senses. When the memoir ends abruptly at the end of what she considers her childhood era, I wished I could continue with her on her journey. Her description of the loving prepared food of her youth had my mouth watering and also ...more
Florey Miller
Mar 18, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Rather blah. Too much information and not enough story. Many of Madhur'rs relatives were rather detestable and it appeared to me that she was quite the little brat getting away with hitting and biting others. But the description of the foods and their customs when eating made me keep reading until the end. I do love her cookbooks!
Linda Boyd
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Do not read this book when hungry! Her descriptions of the families cooking is superb, but it is the recollections of forbidden street foods that had me drooling.
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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.
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