The All-Aboutness of Avocados

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.

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6 Responses to The All-Aboutness of Avocados

  1. Vince says:

    How fun! While I acknowledge the deeper thoughts contained above, the examination of the quality of the fruit itself has been cause for some amusement during my year away from home.

    In my current circumstances, I find myself relating to several folks of varying international backgrounds. Over dinner at his home one evening, a chap from the Carribean compared fruit from home to that of our current shared major city in southern Ontario.

    While he could hardly comprehend our version of mango, he delighted at the availability of apples and strawberries, virtually out-of-reach at home. But the connection to your story above was his absolute amusement at the little dark balls we suffer as avocado. It seems that at home, he enjoys huge, ripe avocado year-round, at will. I think he may have even mentioned bountiful trees on or near his own property.

    You mentioned some of your travels, specifically Arizona and Guatemala; how our voyages can enhance our enjoyment of tastes, smells, music, and sights! I relish a food-themed exploration in my next trip south, or anywhere else, for that matter. Certainly, my recent and impending travels northward have included thoughts of char, caribou, and muskox; and not in their natural habitat, but in various presentations on my plate.

    Thanks for the provoked thought!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Vince – Thank you for your trajectory! I can understand the reaction to our stunted mangoes and avocados from someone who has had them as a birthright, as it were – how pathetic they must seem, indeed – and how fun to see what we take for granted through another’s eyes (Strawberries! Apples! Wow!). There are so many ways to see through new eyes – life invites us to do so daily, I believe, and we “only” need to recognize and accept the invitation.

  2. Dave J says:

    Yes I can attest to the same frustration with the purchase of mangoes!
    My daughter employs a nanny from the Philippines who would have the same comments about fruit as Vince’s friend from the Caribbean.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Dave J – I may never buy a mango by myself again…I’ll have this host of onlookers with me! I rather like mangoes – I wonder how much better theirs are…

  3. Norm Haug says:

    Avocados are tricky but well worth the effort. I love them and they are one of those delights which taste great and are also good for you. We are lucky as our local green grocer keeps a supply of perfectly ripe avocados behind the counter for the “insiders”. This takes the risk out of the purchase with the added benefit of being part of a secret society. 🙂

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Norm – Maybe this is how the masons got started – first, privileged access to avocados, then covert plans for world domination. It’s nice to be part of any community – and I suppose a secret one with special benefits would be just that much sweeter! I note you don’t offer the name of said grocer or anything that would enable them to be identified, but there are, after all, only so many ripe avocados to go around…

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