“Truthfully this is one ‘recipe’ … I make and eat most often! … It’s the holy trinity of Vegenaise, avocado and salt that makes this like a favorite pair of jeans — so reliable and easy and always just what you want.” ~ Gwyneth Paltrow
Nothing has EVER annoyed our daughter more than the comment from Australian journalist Bernard Salt that “twenty-two dollars several times a week [spent on smashed avocado] could go towards a deposit on a house.” This was reiterated by Australian real estate billionaire Tim Gurner, who advised millennials on Sixty Minutes that they should stop wasting their income on smashed avocado and expensive coffee and start saving for a house. His inference was that his success was due solely to working his butt off, and never wasting a penny on such fripperies as brunch, pissed off an entire generation. Our daughter certainly did not take this slur lying down. She quickly calculated that, for her grandparents, buying a house was the equivalent of three years’ salary. Today’s first home buyers are looking at the equivalent of eleven years wages. To some, that might simply suggest our kids should just work more, and work harder, for longer. Or perhaps, understandably, the idea of drowning themselves in debt creates a void perfectly filled by a little comfort eating!
I grew up, like Richard Glover*, in ‘The Land Before Avocado.’ I don’t believe avocados were available in regular supermarkets until the late 1980s, certainly not in South Australia, and even for those who knew where to find them, they were an expensive treat. Apparently, they could be found in Queensland as early as the 1940s, but misinformation and an untimely blight meant that they were forced to keep a very low profile for forty years. Then, waitressing at the original gourmet pub in Unley, I remember serving them as ‘baked avocado’ with prawns and melted cheese, which most distressingly to eager taste buds, all too often resulted in a ghastly bitterness that made the avocado slink backstage in shame.
Luckily, it eventually reversed the negative press by convincing people it was better raw, could cheerfully accompany any salad or prawn cocktail to the dinner table, or alternatively, arrive early with the canapés, accompanied by lime juice, coriander and crackers as a glamorous, green guacamole dip. In these rather tastier forms, it quickly became the ‘must have’ ingredient at any dinner party and on any menu.
I still remember the first time I met an avocado. One Friday evening, in my pre-teen childhood, my father brought one home from the Adelaide market. Like a surgeon, he sliced it in half, carefully removed the seed, and poured a vinaigrette (he had prepared it earlier) into the pit. Garnished with salt and a dash of pepper, he proceeded to eat it with a teaspoon. While he kindly shared it with his four fascinated offspring, he undoubtedly lived to regret his generosity, as we all adored this exotic, indulgent snack. If ever he tried to smuggle one into the house after that, we were bound to discover it, and hovered like baby birds, mouths open, eager to share the spoils.
Smashed avocado on toast had gained traction in Australia by the early 1990s, but by that time I had fled overseas. By 2010 ‘smashed avo’ was an international food trend. Yet we cannot claim its discovery by any stretch of the imagination – it has been popular in South America for centuries, in much the same way Australians have long eaten Vegemite on toast for breakfast.
Today, we see it on every café menu across the city – in fact across any city we have ever visited. It garnishes every California roll to be found in Australia in the past fifteen years. It attends every private dinner party mashed into the host’s favourite recipe for guacamole. I know, because I indulged in a glorious version at my aunt’s only last night.
This morning, we wandered down Prospect Road for a coffee. Like avocado, Prospect has become incredibly trendy since we last lived in South Australia, filled with quirky restaurants and cool cafés. And, of course, every café there has its own version of smashed avocado on toast. Today, I resisted, despite my own personal fetish for avocado on toast. Today I chose mushrooms on toast instead. Sourdough toast. Served with ‘chèvre goat’s cheese’ – just in case you didn’t know what the English for chèvre was! At least it wasn’t the price of a house mortgage – although there wasn’t much change out of $20 – but I did miss my avocado. And while I am not a struggling millenial, the condescension of the press has somewhat dimmed the unadulterated joy of avo on toast with a hefty sprinkling of apologetic guilt.
So, while the mushrooms were tasty – and a change is as good as a holiday, I am told – next time I will quash the guilt and proudly stand up for my much maligned avocado, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, as long as we both shall live!
*Glover, Richard, ‘The Land Before Avocado: journeys in a lost Australia,’ 2018
…And thanks to Google images!