The long-lasting effects of an encounter over the avocado bin, and reflections on the life lessons offered by that humble fruit.
Avocados are all about planning.
Startled, I look up from what I’m doing—feeling up avocados—and glance at the younger woman standing beside me with her head down, focused on the dark-green fruits in front of us. By speaking, she has broken one half of the grocery-store protocol: Neither a conversation initiator nor an eye-contact-maker be. I had been silently sorting through the bin of fruits, looking for ones with some give. Any give at all, really: any whisper of a hint of an indication that these avocados might be ready to eat in the next few hours.
Despite their colour—verging on black in some cases—these specimens have no give. So much for my admittedly last-minute thought of guacamole for dinner tonight. I’m annoyed, although I’m not sure whether it’s with these unripe avocados or with myself for not having been here a few days ago. But at her words, my annoyance dissolves into something softer: chagrin, perhaps, made even softer for being shared.
Yup, I acknowledge, and shake my head ruefully. They are, indeed.
I cannot speak for all Canadian cities in this regard, but at least in Ottawa, Selkirk, Edmonton, and Calgary, avocados are all about planning, a planning made more difficult by the vagaries of the supply chain. Store inventories switch—seemingly overnight—from bins overflowing with the nasty squishiness of over-ripeness to something more suitable for David’s assault on Goliath. A la Goldilocks, “just right/ripe” never seems to be on offer.
Our norm, however, is the under-ripe end of the lifecycle, but since avocados are not a routine part of my diet it is impossible to set up my own in-house supply chain. No, my avocados are purpose-bought, making it a challenge to have ripe ones on hand when the time is also ripe. How far ahead of need must I buy: how long will it take to convert that rock-hard lump into the perfect mashing consistency? And so it is that I stand again and again at the avocado bin, trying to discern vanishingly small gradations in ripeness. Over the years since my chance encounter with that young woman, this time spent over the avocado bin has sometimes been well wasted as I think about avocados and the life lessons they offer.
I think about my buying strategy to mitigate risk from uncertain ripeness. How frustrating it is to feel the knife blade slice through the leathery skin and slide smoothly into the flesh (It is ripe! Hurray!) only to have jubilation turn to disgust a nanosecond later as the fruit splits into two halves riddled with icky brown-black spots. Do you need three good avocados? Buy five. OK, maybe six. Avocados are all about allowing for contingency factors.
I think about how differently a ripe avocado feels in Phoenix than it does in Ottawa, the softness/ripeness relationship reflecting distance from the source of supply, I guess. Avocados are all about adapting to my location.
I think about finding an avocado on the path at my Spanish school in Guatemala in 2004, only then realizing that these small fruits grow on humungous trees. Subconsciously, I had been picturing gnarly vines, I guess: grapes on steroids or something like. Avocados are all about recognizing unexamined assumptions.
I think about the book (and movie therefrom)–Oh, God!—in which God admits to making mistakes: the too-big avocado pit being one of them. Avocados are all about hanging onto humility.
Avocados are all about planning.
As I sort resignedly through this week’s pile of lumpy avocados, I smile again at the memory of that unknown young woman, never seen before nor likely to be seen again. In spite of their inherent challenges, I keep coming back for more avocados, hoping for better results from my next encounter with this most inscrutable fruit. Hoping, too, for more chance encounters, more unexpected connections.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. As it turns out—and perfectly reasonably so—avocados are all about having faith.