For the Love of Avocados

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I know I’ve written about Incas (potatoes, onions) and their contributions to food history, but they had nothing on the Aztecs, who introduced two of my all-time favorites, avocados and chocolate, to the world.  (And, yes, they did sacrifice humans, but what culture doesn’t have its shortcomings?)  

Like many natural foods that contain any amount of fat (my beloved peanut comes to mind), the avocado was long shunned as an artery-clogging fruit demon.  Even now, many will tell you to avoid this creamy green goodness, but just look them straight in the eye and say, “No.” The avocado is back, baby.

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For those linguists out there, the word “avocado” is based on the Nahuatl (language of the Aztecs) word for testicle, ahucati.  This naming situation may be because the Aztecs considered the avocado a sexual stimulant.  (That Mexican-themed brunch you’re planning just got a whole lot more interesting, didn’t it?  You’re welcome.) 

People have been enjoying this lovely little fruit in South America for thousands of years, and although Spanish explorers introduced avocados to North American colonists in the seventeenth century, Americans didn’t truly catch on to the aweomeness of avocados until the 1950s when it became a popular salad addition — and I sincerely hope we’re not talking about the suspended-in-jello-alongside-nuts-salad.  Seriously?  Are you kidding me, Mad Men? 

The fat amount in avocados is not that astonishing, actually.  Half an avocado contains about 11 grams of fat (most of that monounsaturated), 6 grams of fiber, over 2 grams of protein, 12% of your daily vitamin B6, 10% vitamin C, and important antioxidants such as beta carotene. Not bad, eh?  Avocados make the perfect satiating snack– sprinkled with sea salt, smooshed onto a piece of toast, or added to a refreshing smoothie.    

One of my favorite new recipes is lentils and rice cooked with cinnamon and cumin.  (The basic recipe– in Veganomicon, moment of silence — adds caramelized onions and spiced pita chips to the finished dish, and I’ve done that, but who am I kidding that with teaching, going back to school full-time, and raising two small children, that I have the time or energy to caramelize onions on any given day? Exactly.)  So, I’ve discovered a most wondrous way to eat said lentils and rice: topped with chunks of steamed sweet potato and fresh avocado!   Here’s the recipe:

Easy-Peasy Lentils & Rice

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup lentils (I’ve used red, green, etc.)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (did I mention avocados and cinnamon are from the same plant family? This is meant to be!)
  • 1 1/2 t. cumin
  • 1/2 t. allspice
  • 1/2 baked sweet potato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup avocado, chopped 
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Bring water and rice to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Add rice, cinnamon, cumin, and allspice, bring to a boil, then turn heat down, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.  Be careful not to burn; add more liquid if necessary. 

3.  Let cool, add sweet potato and avocado, and enjoy.  This also makes a great packed lunch — it led to quite an interesting conversation with some classmates last week about what I eat and how I survive without meat and dairy. 🙂 

What discussion of avocados would be complete without a shout out to everyone’s favorite chip pairing, guacamole?  Please, though, do me and everyone else in your circle a tremendous favor: never buy prepackaged guacamole again.  If you’re really hankering for a taste of chemicals, food starch, various and sundry oils, locust bean gum, and just a whiff of avocado, pick up a tub of everlasting “avocado dip” at the store.  Otherwise, just make your own — it tastes divine and is oh-so-much better for you.  All you need is a fork.  The following recipe highlights lime (because I didn’t have lemons on hand) and garlic (because I love it), but you can modify guacamole in myriad ways. Be bold.

Holy Guacamole, Batman!

  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted (clearly)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tomato (optional)

1. Smash all ingredients together in heirloom bowl.

2.  Serve immediately with chips, fresh veggies, on toast, in tacos, on your burrito bowl, alongside scrambled tofu, or just straight out the bowl.  Try to ignore distracting gasps and swoons. 

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