Preservation Culture is still very much in its infancy, but we have already worked and collaborated with some incredible women from around the world. During our last workshop, we asked two of them, both originally from Bangladesh, to reflect on their relationship with food preservation and their cultural memories of it. With the mango in Bangladesh being considered some of the best in the world, it’s no wonder both women had plenty of stories about the fruit.
Suraiya is a working mum of four. She is keen to learn more about food preservation to help her replicate the delicious pickles and preserves her mother and grandmother used to make in her native Bangladesh. She also looks forward to learning about similar traditions from other cultures and exchanging knowledge.
“I saw my mum and my nan preserving food for years and years. I saw them use mangoes, berries – the fruits that you would find in Bangladesh and that you needed to preserve.
They used to make mango chutney. You can make it with big chunks or into a puree. You have the puree with naan and rice and everything, and you put the chunky mango chutney on different curries… it just gives flavour.
Same with the berries. My mum used to dry berries and then soak them, and then you can make chutney with garlic and spices. One of my first memories of preservation was when she would make this after the berry season, it was so yummy! I still make it, but you have to buy the dried berries from back home.
Whenever I cook, I buy this stuff and I think “Oh, my mum used to make these things, and now I have to buy them”. It tastes different. When you do it at home, it tastes nicer than the one you buy.”
Nasima grew up in Bangladesh and has been making her mother’s recipe for mango achaar (pickle) for years. At our last workshop, she shared her secrets with us and talked about the ways her family would preserve the glut of fresh mangoes available every year in her village in Bangladesh.
“We had plenty of mango trees growing in the village. On windy days, the mangoes would drop from the trees. When we would start collecting them in the morning, there were so many mangoes you wouldn’t know what to do with it – you couldn’t eat them all! So we would make achaar.
To make the achaar, we would mash the mango. If we didn’t have a food processor, we would use our hands. If the mango isn’t sweet enough, you can add brown sugar, honey, or regular sugar – whatever you prefer. You put this in a saucepan and stir it until it is thicker, or you can strain it through a cloth as well. You then spread the mango in a thin layer in the sun to dry. When it is half-hard, you cut it into smaller shapes, and then leave to dry until hard. We then use this to make achaar, or you can eat it as a snack by itself.
You can also, once you have thickened the mango and sugar, just put it in a jar and eat it as a jam. You can add some spices, chilli, or a pinch of salt for flavour and texture. You can eat this with bread, or another popular way is with rice pudding.
Another thing you can do is just dry pieces of raw mango in the sun. You can eat them by themselves or, whenever you want to use them in a dish, just put them in water until they are soft.”
Our favorite part of what we do is hearing personal stories like these, which teach us new things while allowing women to look back on their fondest food memories. As we continue our work, we look forward to sharing more of these insights from women around the world.
Note: The quotes above have been edited for clarity.