September 16, 2020
September 16th is National Guacamole Day! Hooray!
It’s also Mayflower Day, Mexican Independence Day and Play-Doh Day.
We are so impressed by the courageous voyage of the Mayflower. Yay Pilgrims!
Also, we both loved playing with Play-Doh when we were kids. And, gulp, when my mom and teachers weren’t looking, I ate some.
But today, we are going to celebrate the time that Mexico gained independence from Spain, with something super yummy to eat. From what I remember, guacamole tastes much better than Play-Doh. Bravocado Mexico!
I really like apples, but we both LOVE avocados! In fact, for the past few years, we’ve ceased living by the old wife’s remedy for good health, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” I’m a wife and I’m old, but we’ve swapped one fruit for a much more versatile, vitamin-packed one. We eat avocados every day. We have become avocado advocates and our favorite way to enjoy this marvelous fruit is guacamole.
We had a long discussion last week about whether avocados were fruits or vegetables. We THOUGHT they were fruit, but we didn’t KNOW for sure. Now we do. Because they have a seed and grow on trees, avocados are definitely a fruit. And of course, that got my curiosity piqued. Believe me folks, there’s more to guacamole than meets the eye and mouth, and I’d like to share with you a few cool things that were new to me.
You’ve guac my word, this will be fun.
Chip, Chip Hooray, Happy Guacamole Day!
Let’s guac and roll!
The first avocados can be traced back to Puebla, in South Central Mexico. 14,000 years ago!!! The Lestodon loved them. Do you even know what a Lestodon is? I envisioned a huge scaly creature that hung with the Velociraptor and T-Rex, but I was wrong. The Lestodon was a huge prehistoric, avocado-loving sloth! Anything with seeds gave regular dinosaurs tummy problems, which left more for the Lestodon, who, like the Ryans, tolerate avocados just fine! These 15-foot monsters ate avocados whole, traveled around, pooped the seeds, and thus deposited and fertilized the plants. Lestodon became extinct about 13,000 years ago, but the “fruit” of their existence, the avocado, lives on.
The avocado was a big part of Aztec and Mayan life, for more than just a food source. The Aztecs believed that the fruit provided super strength when eaten, and in the Mayan calendar, the fourteenth month (K’aink’in) was represented by the cuneiform character for the avocado.
In the 1500s, when the Spanish showed up in Mexico, they realized the value of the avocado and soon avo trees were cultivated in Central and South America, as well as, exported to Europe.
It wasn’t until 1833 that avocados were cultivated and grown in Florida and later in California. But the fruit didn’t become popular in the United States until the 1950s, when they were added to salads.
In 1696, Sir Hans Sloane, an Irish naturalist, came up with the name “avocado,” when he mentioned it while cataloguing Jamaican plants. The word derives from the Nahuati word “ahuacatl,” which refers to a certain part of the male anatomy that resembles an avocado (keeping this PG-rated folks). Quite possibly this is why the Aztecs used the fruit as an aphrodisiac, for both men and women.
The buttery texture of the fleshy part of an avocado caused it to be called “butter fruit” in India. It is grown mainly in the Southwest Indian state of Karnataka, and if you were to ask any farmer there what he was growing, he’d most certainly reply, “butter fruit.”
The early English name for the fruit was avocado pear, but was often misinterpreted as “alligator pear,” probably because of the fruits rough skin. Well, the name has stuck in some parts of the United States too.
Before we became house sitters John travelled a lot for work. Often, I got to accompany him. One time we were in a Miami grocery store and I saw John pick up a couple of huge bright green things that he called alligator pears. Folks, these were the size and shape of really big eggplants. I didn’t know what they were, but didn’t want to appear d-u-m-b, so I didn’t ask. A few days later, John asked me if I would fix some guacamole. I replied that I would be glad to as soon as he got me some avocados. He then, educated me on what an alligator pear was. Doh! I figured, because there were lots of gators in Florida… oh well, now I know! Those things were HUGE!
It’s hard to believe that there was a time in America’s recent past, when nobody knew what an avocado was. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the avocado found its way to the produce section of most grocery stores. It took quite a bit of marketing for people to see, and understand, how absolutely marvelous the avocado is.
In the 1980s, the U.S. dietary guidelines pushed people towards low-fat eating habits. The avocado industry took a huge blow, and although marketing gurus did research, ran TV ads, and tried to promote the healthy benefits of the avocado, it didn’t boost sales. They had forgotten a key promotion factor: the American public had never been educated about how to eat an avocado. Go figure!
Then in the 1990s the California Avocado Commission hired the PR firm of Hill and Knowlton, and things changed rapidly. They created the mascot “Mr. Ripe Guy” as a spokes-fruit, and ingeniously found a way to incorporate the avo into the Super Bowl. And we all know how the Super Bowl has evolved into a spectacular extravaganza, where most Americans over-indulge in all kinds of food. Bingo! This was the perfect audience at the perfect time (January is prime avocado ripening season). So they pitched the “Guacamole Bowl “ getting popular NFL players to share their recipes.
Most people who hadn’t given a guac before, suddenly did. This was pre-Internet, but you might say the guacamole story went viral, skyrocketing sales by 70%. What once was an odd, obscure fruit is now an integral part of Super Bowl Sunday. During this past year’s Super Bowl, Americans consumed 105 million pounds of avocados. Holy guacamole!
Avocados don’t ripen on the tree, but rather, after they have been harvested. You have to know what you are doing when purchasing avocados, so, I let John do it. There’s nothing worse than getting home from the store, cutting one open, and finding brown squishy stuff inside. It’s a balancing act, because no two avocados are exactly the same.
But to get a pretty good idea about the ripening process, these are a few color and feel generalities:
Firm Not Ripe, 4-5 days until ripe: If you gently squeeze the avocado (don’t poke it with your finger, because that will bruise it) and it’s really hard, you need to wait a few days. The outside skin is usually green, or even bright green. If you can’t wait and cut one open at this stage, you won’t be able to get the seed to loosen from the fleshy part. And, don’t even try to eat one during this stage. Yuck, phooey, awful! To ripen, store the avocado at room temperature, or if you are impatient you can put it in a brown paper bag with an apple or banana to speed up the process.
Breaking Almost Ripe, 1-2 days until ripe: In avocado lingo an avocado is considered to be “breaking” when it’s almost ready for your mouth. Sometimes it’s hard to identify this phase just by looking at the color. It’s a good idea to do a gentle squeeze. The fruit will “give” a bit, but again, if you just can’t wait and cut it open, the seed will not cooperate. The fleshy part will not be easy to mash up. Wait one or two more days. Be patient.
Ripe and Ready, 0 days to ripen: When you apply gentle pressure to the skin, it’s soft, but not mushy. Normally, the skin will be darker in color. If you know you’ve got a winner, but are not ready to chow down on your prize, throw it in the fridge to prevent over ripening. But you’d better eat it soon.
Overripe, Past Due: Okay, at this point when you squeeze, it will feel mushy. The skin will have deep indentations and the flesh, well…let’s just say, it’s a pretty awful shade of brown-green. It’s not going to smell so good, as well. You shouldn’t eat this one. To the trash, or for us, here in Barra, to Lizzy, our roof-dwelling iguana.
Like I said, John and I share at least one avocado a day.
Actually, we’d probably chow down on them even if they weren’t so healthy, because we love them so much. It’s a good thing they are good for us! Here’s a few benefits of eating an avocado each day:
Stabilize Your Weight: Avocados have the “good” kind of fat, and when you eat healthy fats along with other essential nutrients, it helps your body level out at its optimum, comfortable weight.
Regulate Your Metabolism: Keeping your metabolism stable is essential for good health. The healthy fats in avocados help to prevent metabolism spikes and crashes after a meal.
They are Delicious: There are an infinite number of culinary masterpieces you can create with avocados. We’ve never had avocado ice cream, but I bet it would be good. I like to just cut ‘em open, scoop out the seed, toss a little salt on and gobble them up! Best snack ever!
They Boost Your Immune System: Avocados are rich in vitamins A, C and E, which means they are immunity boosters. And nowadays, we all need our immune systems to work overtime!
They Can Preserve Your Eyesight: In a few months, I’m having cataract surgery. Woo hoo! I’m sure it’s because I didn’t eat enough avocados as a child… wink! Avocados are loaded with tons of stuff, with long complicated names, that are particularly effective in staving off macular degeneration. Good reason to keep on gorging on the luscious fatty, eye-shielding fruit.
They Can Stave Off Hunger: Do you ever get that mid-day slump, when you start to crave things like chips and chocolate candy? I sure do. But eating an avocado, instead, is just as yummy and provides slow-digesting energy, as opposed to the spike and crash that candy and chips offer.
They Could Lower Cancer Risk: Avocados are super rich in antioxidants that help fight off and inhibit the growth of cancer.
They Fight Inflammation: This super fruit contains oleic acid, which is a miracle compound that decreases inflammation in the body. And, inflammation is the culprit behind many chronic diseases, like Alzheimer’s and arthritis.
They Help Prevent Diabetes: Avocados help to regulate blood sugar.
They Lower Cholesterol: Remember, avocados have the “good” kind of fat. This lowers the “bad” kind, which keeps cholesterol at healthy levels.
They Lower Your Risk for Heart Disease: Avocados are packed full of potassium, which is necessary to keep your blood pressure low and steady. Thank you, guacamole!
They Make You Happier: You are just one avocado away from a good mood. Well, at least that’s the way it works for us. Have one and tell me you aren’t happier. Okay, it’s probably the folate and potassium in avocados that help you to not be depressed, but who cares about the details. It works!
You’ll Get Better Hair: Okay, maybe John is not the best poster child for this benefit, but the vitamin C and folic acid, in avocados, support healthy shiny hair, as well as, keeping it growing as we age. Sorry honey.
Guacamole is perhaps the most popular way to eat avocados. For those of you that have spent the past 50 years on the moon and don’t know, guacamole is an avocado based dip, made up primarily of squashed avocados.
All of you probably have your own favorite recipe, but the most common ingredients are:
• Lime Juice
On the nights we have tacos, John makes his famous “green paste” (that’s what I call it), which is basically avocados, garlic powder and onion powder. I slather it on my tortilla before everything else and, like Lebowski’s (the Dude) area rug, it just pulls everything together and makes the rest of the ingredients “stick.”
I sometimes like to add a little sour cream or cream cheese, as well as, salsa to the mix. It’s fun to experiment and guac your world with a recipe that is uniquely yours.
We generally like our guac with chips, tortillas, nachos, salads, and guac toast. Neither one of us have a guilt problem taking the last scoop from the bowl. It’s a guac thing.
Historically, it was the Aztecs that whipped up the original batch of guacamole over 700 years ago. Back then, they called it “ahuacamolli” which was a mash-up of “ahuacatl” (avocado) and “Mulli” (sauce). It was the Spaniards that shortened it to “guacamole”, and they sailed back to Europe raving about the scrumptious dish that they had discovered in Mexico.
Even though guacamole roots are in Mexico, its popularity is worldwide. Each culinary culture has added a unique regional spin to the classic dip. In Japan, soy sauce, rice vinegar and wasabi paste is added. The French enjoy their guac on baguettes with shallots and tarragon.
After all, there is only one requirement for guacamole – the avocado. The rest is up to you and your creative culinary spirit!
One thing you’ve probably guessed by now is that John and I are Guaco-holics. We believe that store bought guacamole, in a pouch, is a crime against the taste buds. So, to celebrate Mexico’s Independence and National Guacamole Day, repeat after us:
“Today, I will buy fresh avocados and make my own scrumptious bowl of guacamole. And before I take my first bite, I will hold my chip in the air and salute Mexico, her rich history of food, her kindness in sharing avocados with the rest of us, and her freedom on this very special day. Gracias, México!”
See, that wasn’t too difficult, was it?
Now, go pig out!
All of the strength of a nation resides in the homes of it’s people. Wishing all of you a happy Mexican Independence Day. Viva México!
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