FOOD AT HOME

Neha Misra talks about her “mango love” and how it is threatened by global climate change.

Neha Misra is an artist and climate justice advocate. Born and raised in New Delhi, India, Neha has lived in the United States for 16 years. I connected with Neha and her work last year, and we instantly shared a bond that only people from India and Pakistan can share. As Neha puts it; “food is our love language,” and no food speaks it better than aam or mangoes. We are united in our pure, unadulterated love for the fruit. 

Neha is an “achaar” or pickle lover and some of her fondest memories are those of Indian summers, also known as, the “mango season,” when her mother and “nani” (maternal grandmother) would prepare aam ka achaar in the traditional way. “Aam ka achaar is such a quintessential part of my Indian roots,” said Neha. Aam Panna is another one of her favorites, which Neha describes as “a drink that soothes your soul and body.” 

Neha is concerned about the impact of rising global temperatures on farmlands and small farmers. The monsoon season, which traditionally brought even and temperate rains across South Asia during the summer months is beginning to look erratic over the years. There are parts of the region that experience severe drought, while others are flooded with excessive rains. This is detrimental to the production of mangoes, which is dependent on monsoon rains. This climate trend hurts small economies and seasonal workers mostly in rural areas, who are dependent on the mango crop for their sustenance. According to Neha, the absence of a climate that organically nurtures the crop also gives rise to the use of “industrialized mega production systems with all its complexities.” 

As Neha and I weaved “mango love” through what she calls “fifty shades of mangoes”, we talked about interesting names of mango varieties and wondered about the evolution of those names. Totta Pari which can be literally translated as parrot-fairy, kept us occupied for some time.  But beyond the tactile, mango signifies a deeper root for Neha. It keeps her connected to her origin and elders. “They knew how to make things with both love and patience,” said Neha, while reminiscing her ancestral women. 

Check out Neha’s video for a delicious, easy and quick recipe to make her favorite aam ka achaar, which traditionally took several days to prepare. 

Our partners at Asian Arts and Cultural Center at Towson University are hosting an event Culinary Confluences: South Asian Street Food in Baltimore on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2 pm, at Motor House. Registration and details at: Culinary Confluences: South Asian Street Food in Baltimore

Written and produced by Saima Adil Sitwat.

Funding for Food at Home is provided by Maryland State Arts Council. 

Published by Saima Adil Sitwat

Writer, Speaker, Educator

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