When you've eaten mangosteens.
-- Rudyard Kipling, Just So Stories
While waiting in the airport in Jinan, China, we happened upon a tourist shop that had a display of fruits for sale. Piled high beside the cherries was something I had never seen before. I asked Song, our Embassy guide for the Jinan - Beijing leg of our trip, to find out what it was. "Mountain bamboo," he replied. We bought several but lacking any kind of knife, airport security being what it is, we were unable to eat them until we arrived at our Beijing hotel. The fruit resembles a plum in color but the outer shell is quite tough and, as I discovered, inedible. Once opened -- quite simply, by the way, by scoring the perimeter and gently pulling the halves apart -- the edible fruit is creamy white, looks like cloves of garlic but has the texture of lichi. The sections come apart easily, the fruit is sweet and juicy and while eating it I was reminded of Brilliat-Savarin's claim that "the discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star.” When we arrived home, I tried to find out more about "mountain bamboo" including where I might buy some, but came up empty. Then, the other day Apartment Therapy announced that the ban on mangosteens has been lifted and they are now available in the U.S. Thus , by the photo accompanying the post, I learned that what we had eaten in China was the fabled mangosteen! I haven't seem them in NYC yet but perhaps that will change after a stroll through Chinatown. Has anyone out there seen these fruits in NYC? Will the mangosteen be this year's pomegranate? Can a mangosteen martini be far behind?