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Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India Paperback – October 9, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The celebrated actress and author of several books on Indian cooking turns her attention to her own childhood in Delhi and Kampur. Born in 1933 as one of six children of a prosperous businessman, Jaffrey grew up as part of a huge "joint family" of aunts, uncles and cousins—often 40 at dinner—under the benign but strict thumb of Babaji, her grandfather and imperious family patriarch. It was a privileged and cosmopolitan family, influenced by Hindu, Muslim and British traditions, and though these were not easy years in India, a British ally in WWII and soon to go though the agony of partition (the separation and formation of Muslim Pakistan), Jaffrey's graceful prose and sure powers of description paint a vivid landscape of an almost enchanted childhood. Her family and friends, the bittersweet sorrows of puberty, the sensual sounds and smells of the monsoon rain, all are remembered with love and care, but nowhere is her writing more evocative than when she details the food of her childhood, which she does often and at length. Upon finishing this splendid memoir, the reader will delight in the 30 "family-style" recipes included as lagniappe at the end. Photos. (Oct. 11)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Actress and consummate authority on the foods of India, Jaffrey reflects on her earliest memories in this autobiography. Steeped in Hindu culture and learning, she grew up within an extended well-to-do Delhi family that expected the best of each. Starting with her grandmother's placing honey on her tongue shortly after birth, Jaffrey's life began to arrange itself around all that food represents in Hindu life. Some of her most touching and distressing scenes come with the advent of India's independence and its partition. Jaffrey's friends and schoolmates had from the outset included both Hindu and Muslim, but religious and political strife soon sundered all relations. On the culinary front, Hindu refugees from the subcontinent's northwest regions brought tandoori cooking to Delhi and ultimately made it an integral part of the national cuisine. In an appendix, Jaffrey records recipes for dozens of dishes that figure in her memoir. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400078202
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400078202
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By RMitra, mystery writer on November 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have read her cookbooks and I have seen her act in movies. Both, I might add, have been virtuoso performances.

I bought this book for I was born in Delhi, India, around the time (give or take 10 years)that Ms. Jaffrey writes about.

It is delightful.

Not only the narrative, simple, unassuming but wonderfully evocative, but what she manages to put in between family reminiscences. All those wonderful food items and she describes them with mouthwatering adjectives.

Very enjoyble indeed.

I wish they'll bring out an audio edition, this is worth listening to and drool in a long car journey
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Marianne O. Schmidt VINE VOICE on January 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
My son bought me this lovely book for my birthday, and as always, the writing is seductive, and draws one in immediately. Jaffrey has a delightfully chatty and confidential tone when talking about family and friends, and it makes you feel you know them well. This is a fascinating book - well written, and one that lingers in the memory like a fragment of a dream: familiar, elusive, and haunting. My only complaint is that it wasn't longer, and didn't go much past early adulthood. I want to know more, and hopefully this talented actress, author, and raconteur will do just that. This is my 6th book by Madhur Jaffrey, and I am fond of them all. I recommend any and all to people willing to try something new. A personal favorite is Flavors Of India. Lots of great recipes and anecdotal information on the people and regions of India. If you are new to Indian cooking, you are in for a rare treat with her many cookery books. They do take some time and preparation, but if you can read, and are moderately adventurous, all will be well. Let me also recommend Indian CDs and Bollywood for the full experience. Bon voyage.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Parul Narain on October 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just got this book after waiting for a few months and was quite thrilled to see familiar names and places mentioned. Being a distant family member, I am probably prejudiced but I think this book is a fascinating read, especially for someone brought up in Delhi. The book even has a family tree in the beginning, going back to the 1500s. As in all her books, Madhur Jaffrey manages to give her recipes a very easy to do feel and very helpful hints for people like us living in the US and I am dying to try out the recipes. Enjoy!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By P. Shipman on January 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have always loved Madhur Jaffrey's recipes and acting. This memoir, even for those who don't know her, is marvelous. She provides a beautifully-written glimpse of growing up in a large and well-to-do Indian family that mixed Muslim and Hindu traditions in an era that is now past. The description of family foods (and the recipes -- YUM)and the traditions of her family are wonderful. I was terribly sorry when I came to the end of the book, though I was thrilled to find recipes in the back. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in Indian food, Indian culture, or history -- and to anyone who just plain enjoys memoirs.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By MK on August 31, 2009
Format: Paperback
I love Madhur Jaffrey. I saw her on Sara Moulton's cooking show and she inspired me to cook the daunting cuisine I loved...Indian. Spectacular and very educating cookbooks she has written. Much to the delight of my family and friends.

This is a memoir of sorts but the whole time I was reading it (despite her delightful personality) I felt I was missing something. There were nice intermittent memoirs but not a real thread that wove it all together. And the ominous descriptions of her uncle terminated with a comment that he died one day after she left India.
hmm.
I think her story is lovely but it isn't what I expected of her. But maybe that's just a testament to her expertise as a cookbook author ( no small feat!) and a PBS TV personna..she is very charming and you wish she was your neighbor or friend!

So yes, I enjoyed this book but having seen her before on TV and in cookbook form, the story was loose and needed better editing and guidance with the plot. But I read it on a wine country escape and it did serve as a lovely counterpart to my experience.
If you are at all interested in Indian cuisine, please read her many Indian cookbooks which are all superb.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Vijay K. Gurbani on August 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I know the author by her association with Said Jaffrey, an actor of some repute
in India, and her famous cookery show and books in the same domain.
Apparently, at one time the author was married to Mr. Jaffrey, but has since
divorced and is now re-married to a gentleman in New York and settled in the
same city. I presume she still writes books on Indian cooking. In any case,
the Jaffrey name and the title were enough of a ruse to get me to read the
book. What emerges is a tale of a priviledged childhood in pre-independence
India: her family traces its roots back to the time of emperor Aurangzeb
(the last Mughal ruler of India) in whose court Madhur's ancestors used to
ply their craft as writers. The emperor gifted land to her ancestors in what
would later became New Delhi, enabling Madhur a luxurious childhood by Indian
standards. Her family was well to do: grandfather was a barrister, father
owned mills, the family took trips to Europe and possessed two American cars -- and
this is in pre-independent India, mind you. The book itself is composed of short
chapters, each one detailing some memory of childhood: cousins, siblings, aunts and
uncles, grandparent, summer trips to Simla, train rides, traumas, first love, the
travails of a joint family, etc. A common thread that runs through all the chapters is
the association of food with the memories. Madhur (which means "sweet, honey-like" in
Hindi) draws upon her strength -- food -- to permeate each chapter. The writing
style is informal and colloquial, but enjoyable nonetheless. As an added bonus, the
last portion of the book contain her favorite recipes. (July 2007)
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