I have a confession to make: I used to hate mangoes.
Now, that doesn’t really sound like a big deal right? But if, like me, you’re from the Philippines, then that statement is sin. Filipinos are extremely proud of Philippine mangoes (which we consider the best mangoes in the whole world, of course). Bright yellow, soft, lingeringly sweet, the Philippine mango can evoke the hot summer sun and a cool tropical breeze in one bite. It is sweet, so sweet, that if you close your eyes while eating it, and you let the tender flesh linger in your tongue, and you savor the saccharine juice of the fresh fruit, that you can imagine tasting… paradise.
But I used to hate it.
When I was a kid I refused to enjoy the bushels of mangoes in our house. I would turn up my nose at the ripe mangoes that my family eats after dinner. “I don’t like mangoes,” I would obnoxiously declare.
One bright afternoon though, everything changed. It was the day my sisters and I made an icebox cake. I have two younger sisters, both of whom I love to no end, and they both like mangoes. My youngest sister Patty, so smart and strong and beautiful, could eat mangoes with breakfast, lunch, and dinner – and snacks. And Monica, dear Monica, is absolutely enamored with this sweet fruit, almost as much as she adores avocados. Maybe even more. So we decided to make a mango ice box cake.
While the three of us were involved in the creation of this mango cake, it was really Monica who enjoyed it the most. It became her project, with Patty and me being relegated to assistants. My sweet sister Monica, who cannot see nor hear, had the grandest time making this four-ingredient cake. She impatiently waited for hours for the cake to set, and when we all took it out of the freezer, she was beaming with excitement, with plate and fork ready for action.
I, too, took a bite.
And just like that, I started to love mangoes.
The mangoes started to taste like love and pride and excitement. Mangoes started to remind me of Monica and this icebox cake and that afternoon with my two wonderful sisters. Mangoes… became my paradise.
Mango Icebox Cake
2 sleeves graham crackers (16 sheets) – or you can substitute lady fingers
1 14 oz. can condensed milk
10 oz whipped cream
2 cups ripe mangoes, sliced into thin strips
In a big bowl, fold in the condensed milk into the whipped cream.
Spread a few spoonfulls of the whipped cream mixture in the bottom of a 5×11 inch baking pan (or something similarly-sized). Lay down a layer of graham crackers. Generously cover the top of the graham crackers with more whipped cream, then a single layer of the sliced mangoes. Repeat three more times until you have four layers of graham crackers. Spread the remaining whipped cream on top with a spatula.
Refrigerate for at least four hours before slicing.
Do you have a special memory of making something with your siblings or loved ones?