Stone in Love With You: The Resistible Rise of the Avocado

There are few things I enjoy more on toast than a smashed avocado topped with a poached egg and a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt flakes.

I realise I am in danger of sounding like one of the legion avocadophiles who daily bombard social media sites with images of green mush and exclamation marks, but trust me, I’m very far from living my life in lycra and fretting about monounsaturated fatty acids.

Aching hip, yes. Achingly hipster, no.

I just like avocados.

And the thing is, I feel that I have witnessed the rise and rise of the avocado through the course of my life.

I’ve watched it make its first hesitant steps into the marketplace, smiling apologetically as people mistook it for a pear, batting away any embarrassment at the mispronunciation of its name and slipping in beside the persimmon and the papaya on the supermarket pallets.

In the beauty competition that was the International Fruit Shelf, the avocado might well have felt intimidated by the shiny orange of the Sharon fruit or the coy blush of the pawpaw. After all, how do you sell yourself when you look like a supersize, green testicle?

It wasn’t to know that it was to win that pageant hands down and set off a style trend in bathrooms across the UK, and probably the globe. Hell, how many Papaya bathroom suites did you drop your pants in?

I remember my early encounters with avocados. Perhaps the first was in a competition run by Noel Edmonds on the children’s Saturday morning TV show, Multi Coloured Swap Shop.

It was very straight forward. You had to guess the material from which Noel’s head had been carved and send in your answer.

The quiz  foxed a nation’s children. For Noel’s graven image had been carved from an avocado stone.

If the phrase FFS had existed, a collective FFS would have arisen from sitting rooms from Purley to Preston.

I first ate ‘avocado pear’ as she termed it, at my nan’s flat in Poplar, East London in the late seventies.

My nan’s Sunday evening tea was always a joy. She bought everything fresh from the local market the day before and clearly, one Saturday at about four o’clock some trader had a lot of avocados needing shifting or they’d spoil.

At that point, nobody had thought to mash up the ripe avocados with lemon juice and salt and freeze them ready for their post work-out brunch. Because the post-work-out-brunch was yet to be born.

The knock-down avocado I ate had its cavity filled with tiny, barely defrosted Atlantic prawns.

A curiously, doubly bland combination but at the time it felt exotic. I was transported.

My husband recalls his first avocado encounter at a post-show party also in the seventies.

His parents were players on the am dram scene but it sounds like the biggest entrance was made by the avocado itself.

“There was one avocado shared between about thirty people,” he tells me. “It must have been like the day sweets came off ration.”

Years later, I was treated to an avocado-based lunch by an artist friend of the family who’d been great friends with Orovida Pissarro, the granddaughter of impressionist painter Camille.

Orovida had concocted a truly awful oily, vinegary dressing which incorporated some terrifying chilli and mustard products.

The family friend insisted that I’d never have tasted anything like it, and produced it in tribute to her late pal, who was clearly a better artist than cook.

She was right. I’d never tasted anything like it. And for about three days after I worried I might never taste anything at all again.

As my life has gone on however, avocados have lost their mystique. They have become ubiquitous. 

The Tex Mex food trend of the 90s ensured a place at the British dining table for Guacamole. Folk were eating stuff they couldn’t pronounce!

And by the time the Nutri bullet debuted on the culinary stage, we were drinking avocado cocktails sprinkled with chia seeds and doused in self-congratulation.

Imagine then, how I felt when I heard that our passion for avocados is fuelling illegal deforestation in Mexico. And that drug cartels are  muscling in on production.

Yes. It was the same feeling I had when I heard that buying fake goods was funding global terrorism.

I haven’t been able to walk out with my ‘Mulberry’ handbag since.

I don’t want a bitter aftertaste to my avocado. I’m seriously looking into reviving the fortunes of the African Horned Cucumber.

I think it could go big.

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