Mango: The King of Fruits – Pakistan.jpg uploaded by Shirjeel Imran Malik

First we needed the right rice on the right night with the right fruit and the right knife. It was jazz, really – the way we moved from beginning to middle to end– unrehearsed and  sweet and unpredictable but good – golden. This was not a recipe with verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, verse, chorus.

I bring up music because eating this from a white hot dish, on the table, with a spoon, was like hymns on a sunny day when a friend I liked enough to be happy for was getting married. It felt good and warm. It made Wendy Cope's poem make sense: “this is contentment, this is new”
– because it was both of those things, in a white hot dish.

It was also a marriage because it was two things, separate in my mind, not associated until that night they became so. Coconut and Mango. Maybe they worked because they’re opposites. The flavours align but don’t match. The pudding had the sort of feeling that comes when the sun is shining through a stained glass window in a church. Or maybe it just felt like a party.
It’s that feeling of singing.

This is contentment. This is new.

We are in that kitchen of yours before it becomes your Mum's office. It’s narrow and our elbows are touching elbows are touching elbows are touching elbows as the kitchen fan fans and the stove light lights up our knuckles. We, each of us, peel the skin from the stones and it feels like a moment. The way the sounds sound like sex, a little, too, works in a way. Your friend just brought a crate of these things over to yours – and we have forgotten to ask how they managed that journey, because there really are so many mangoes, but we already know not to ask why they bothered, because it will soon become obvious when we put them in our mouths and suck on them.
Your friend brought them over from home and it is like a ceremony. All of us around.

There’s a reason we call them The King of Fruits – your friend says to us, in the kind of hush that only late-early-morning-night requests.

These things smell like wax and airports. They smell like being away from here, of seeing new things. It’s that sticky part of the night when everyone’s away dreaming – we can’t get too excited with words because it’ll wake them all up.

We have to whisper.

So it’s us, in your narrow kitchen, with the The King of Fruits dripping juice all over the counter, and you’re behind us, with the cans and bags and spoons and saucepans. Everything is bright yellow – I’ve never seen anything like it. Those skins are singing and somehow, someone just found a way to play the music from the radio at just the right volume – the sweet spot – where it feels like the song is in your head, it’s so quiet. Classical music, I don’t know who by, with strings and whistles and little prickly pluck-pluck-pluck sounds and it’s perfect because we’re pluck pluck plucking the flesh from the skin, drip-drip-drip.
We then slice the mangoes into little slippery half-moons.
They are pecked with lime juice and they are sunbathing in the plastic tupperware under that stove light.
The rice is arborio, and it spends a while swimming until it’s tired and fluffy. Swollen. Plump.
You’ve got your coconut milk all sorted already and it’s freckled with a vanilla that makes everything look expensive.
We bake the thing.
We cut the passionfruit that’s been wrinkling in your fridge for too long while the thing is inside the oven.
We take it out, 
a little brown on the top
to the table to the table to the table to the table to the table 
sizzle sizzle bubble bubble
– little spoons ting-ting-ting.
Half-moon mangoes on the top, orange seedy eyes looking up to us from the scooped out passionfruit.
Everyone gathers around.


It’s a slow and small Sunday night-Monday morning pudding.
We all eat in the quiet and it is contentment, it is new.

It’s the middle of the night and I am digging in that wet, shifting part of the internet where everything slides away from me like it’s liquid. I scroll and the images roll into one another, no sense or order other than my own own algorhyme or reason. I click on one thing and the next shuffles, ruffles itself ready, predicting what I want. Predicting what I fancy.

I had never eaten mangoes from Pakistan before.
I had never eaten rice pudding made with coconut milk – none of us had.
I had never eaten lime juice on fruit.
I had never heard that song that was playing – dropped into the room like those mangoes on the counter.
Uninvited, unexpected, fantastic.
I had never met your friends all at once, and I was nervous and it made me hungry for sweet things and warm things and comfort.
I had never been in love – and it made me saccharine and greedy and I’m sorry. 
I had never been in your part of London with your friends in your kitchen.

That night was a glitch – no algorithm could write it in. I write this, tenuously, tentatively because there is a link,
I promise,
I think.

It is the middle of the night and I move over to that dark part of the internet. That part where the grey and the shadows and the font and the phrasing make it all look really narrow, somehow – like your kitchen used to be narrow. I’m on that kind of website that feels like primary school, and I am there, now, and I am offered a Random File. I click on it. 

Mango the King of fruits - Pakistan. jpg

I am looking at this page and I am given a crate of them again. I am taken back to a place I don’t realise had stayed in my memory, in some soft cushioned part, hidden by blankets and best friends and big days to remember.
I am being driven backwards.
The random file has cut open or unearthed my own, random, dusty, submerged file.

Memory is a frightening thing, really.

The internet’s full of stuff. It’s a brimming kitchen with elbows touching elbows touching elbows. It’s a chain reaction of bumping into one another, little things going on, always and always – a line of strangers at a counter peeling mangoes all night, forever. Unveiling more jewels of delicious things, sometimes moulding, sometimes sweet. Completely unpredictable. A growing organism at our fingertips just dripping this stuff.

Of each of the images in this wall-less room we call the internet– would all of them bring up a feeling, a thought, a flavour? Is everything relative to everything else? A conjuring? An invitation? An association? Does everything fit into the next thing if you look at it or twist it around enough, stir hard enough, peel gently enough?

You’ll know you’re in love if all the songs you listen to make sense – I had a dream your Mum told me that while standing in her new office. Really, I read it on my Instagram explore page when I was fifteen or so.

You’ll know you’re in love if all the songs you listen to make sense –does that mean that I know I’m alive when all the images make sense? When everything I look at looks like something else?

That looks like that which looks like that which reminds me of that thing which looks like this thing I ate that tasted like that thing I smelled that was in that place I saw in that film that spoke about that theme from that book I read in that library near that school that looks like that building that looks like that place that –

We put things with other things. It’s a way of gathering sense. We put people with other people in a room because they are in our life and we want them to be together, eating, talking, whispering, dancing. We put flavours with other flavours. Songs with other songs. Images with other images. We join the dots. We blend the ingredients. We tell stories with the composite pieces, threading things together, hitting them together– words touching words touching words. Making up a pudding from separate things in the cupboard that we’ve never put together before.

As if by magic or mixture or that middle of the night mentality of
let’s try it, it’s already late, what’s there to lose?
                                                                                – something makes sense, comes out, get’s done, get’s tied together.

This is about memory, and association, and about no image or file ever being new, or random –
not really,
not at all.

this essay was written after the ‘Random File’ function on Wikimedia Commons presented me with the following image and details

File: Mango: The King of Fruits – Pakistan.jpg


                         “Mango of Pakistan are very famous around the globe.
With such and sweet and delicious taste with adorable smell..
you will found so many types of mango here in Pakistan.
These mango are being export to gulf and Europe every year”

Date: 2015

Author: Shirjeel Imran Malik

I was then lead to this book; 

The Encyclopedia of Food by Artemas Ward, 1848-1925
the stories of the foods by which we live, how and where they grow and are marketed, their comparative values and how best to use and enjoy them

This book lead to a second part of my research, you can read part two here ︎︎︎

Thank you to David Lisbon and Olivia Abando for facilitating the collaborative workshop
  at The Royal College of Art where this essay was read,
– and for showing me Wikimedia Commons

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