Mango: The King of Fruits & Artemas Ward’s Encyclopedia of Food 


Part Two




I can command fruit. I can paste dessert. There is space saved for dinner on my external harddrive. I can download breakfast, document it, date it and delete it, if I choose. My screen is my supermarket. A bazaar.


*



How to cut a mango:

Find your jewel – preferably bright and crisp and fresh with skin that sings against its surroundings. The bolder the flesh, the better; the proof will be in the pudding once you’re finished slicing. You will need a steady hand and a stern eye for these slow cuts. Follow the exocarp, the outward facing part – eaaaaaasy, eaaaaaaaaasy–try not to break it – surround the stone until you re-meet your first incision  – all the way around the thing – there – what a pretty picture!

Watch the slice dance a little. Its pulp is in pixelation.

Ctrl + C

You are a sort of harvester. You mine, dig up, pick, pluck, package, cut, post, dispatch. You can send your fruit to whoever, wherever. The weather is irrelevant now, and seasons only happen on Netflix.

Mango.jpeg
Mango.png
Mango.zip
Mango.docx

They are ripe and ready for cutting
pasting
cutting
pasting


Ctrl + V
*


When we remove the background, we remove the context. What’s surrounding the fruit? Where’s the tree standing? What are its roots?

I didn’t know this, or maybe I just hadn’t thought about it properly before, but when you go Tesco’s, right, you’ve got mangoes from around the world at different times of the year so, like: Peruvian mangoes in the early quarter, then west African mangoes on the shelves until June, then Israeli mangoes and Egyptian mangoes in the third quarter, and Brazilian mangoes when the light’s creeping out, snow’s coming in, sun’s gone.

I just thought they were the same all year round.

When we remove the background, we remove the context. What’s surrounding the fruits? Where’re the trees standing? What are their roots?


*


Mum getting big up in the midlands. Milk teeth all fallen out. She digs her hands down the side of the settee to find pennies for the milkman, and split syrupy beans from a can between the six of them for tea. It’s Burton-upon-Trent, and when they go to the shop down the road the spaghetti is piled, pretty, pricey in  the exotic foods aisle. They see mangoes rarely, on the one telly on their street – it glitters in crunchy, crisping, shaking black and white.




*


The juice is running down our forearms as we eat these things in the springtime sun. I’m wearing something that was made in a factory on an island somewhere, while listening to music that samples a song with lyrics written in a language we don’t know how to pronounce. I am queasy with it; the collaging of all of these composite pieces. The that-goes-with-that-goes-with-that because it just can- ness of the scene, and our collective lack of wonder. I am queasy with the way that it’s all so easy to get our hands on at the touch of a button or screen.

Immediate.

My hands are slippery and sticky with this jewel grown fuck-knows-where, but like, it’s not my fault nothing’s new anymore, nothing’s special anymore.
I’ll look it up later.


“Look at this”, one of us says to me, and I twist my body to them when they call my name. Their screen’s outstretched to me.
“Yeah”
I half laugh
“saw that already”.

I’ve been suckling on my newsfeed, eating like I can’t ever be filled, drip fed this stuff, and although the mangoes are in technicolour now, in my mouth, on my screen, in my local 24hour Tesco fruit aisle, all year round, on my counter, on my plate of exotic-style Haleem that I made with all those spices that I haven’t tried to properly pronounce, from the recipe book that was written by someone who looks just like me – flesh white, skin pink – someone who has never even been to the place where The King of Fruits reign supreme. Where they grow all things bright and beautiful.

What I am talking about here is this; globalisation, and the idea of the exotic (whatever that means) and rare jewels, and apathy, and dreaming of riches and wanting to know about where things came from and when that stopped. I am talking about reading encyclopedias instead of wikipedias because we want to hold stories in our hands and hear how something got to us from all that distance, and about being full of wonder and awe and about having an appetite for more, more, more and more stories.


  *


I found a book called The Encyclopedia of Food today. It was compiled by a man called Artemas Ward between 1848 and 1925, and it includes “the stories of the food by which we live, how and where they grow and are marketed, their comparative values and how best to enjoy them”, with  photographs straddling descriptions straddling diagrams.

I found the book on Wikimedia Commons while considering mangoes and writing something that runs parallel to this. It was a something about memory, and the internet, and information, and association. The Random File function on the site served me three photographs in quick succession, and I noticed they were taken in a similar way, so I picked up a thread that seemed to be tying them together –
the name Artemas Ward.



I then found the book, from 1925, with the following introduction:


The days of food ignorance are passing


*


Questions and problems. Who holds the camera? Whose story is told? Whose food is it really? Who does the work? Who has the power? Who makes the money? Who is invited to eat at the table? Who is the writer? Who is the farmer? Who does the work? Who tells the stories? Whose hands are dirty from their work, really? 

Thought: the two common varieties of mango in the U.K are named Kent and Tommy Atkins –      whose names were cut for these to be pasted on top?   

So,
here lies a new trail – a new path to go down: one that ties threads and knots others.
I leave it as juice drips down my forearm and mangoes stay fresh on my hard drive.


Cut the thing away from the context.
Delete the background.
Blurr the roots and then,
live with it,
within arms reach
whenever you need it –
all year round. 




I ’m thinking about what it means to have access to everything, all the time, everywhere.  To knowledge and mangoes. 
 
 


 
We want more more more more more more more more more more more more more more more
We’ve seen that before,
We’ve seen that before,
We’ve seen that before, 

We’ve seen that before,
We’ve seen that before,

We’ve seen that before,
We’ve seen that before,

We’ve seen that before
We’ve seen that before,
We’ve seen that before,
We’ve seen that before,
We’ve seen that before.














Above, a selection of images sourced while researching The Encyclopedia of Food by Artemas Ward ︎︎︎




To read part one of this series, click here ︎︎︎
To visit The Encyclopedia of Food, click 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


Subscribe to mail-list for writing and publication news