Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Avocado, Avocado! (1956-1961)

Good morning!

From the same utility room pile that yielded yesterday's Hollywood Sewing Patterns post, I found a stack of sequential Pillsbury Bake-off Cookbooks-- which were cute because the woman who collected them carefully annotated each cover to reflect the year the Bake-off had taken place (Pillsbury had only thought to title each "First Annual", "Second Annual", "Third Annual", and so on) in looping black felt tip pen. The sixth annual (1956) book I opened at random, and out fluttered this leaflet on Calavo Avocados and their uses.

"How many ways do you serve this many-purpose fruit?" asked the cover. "Um...sometimes I buy them on sale and just eat slices as I go? Or, uhhh...on a sandwich? Sometimes?" was probably not the answer the 1954 Calavo Growers of California writers were looking for, so I skimmed through the recipes inside and started thinking about how I had no idea people used avocados in variant ways as far back as the fifties'. Avocado dip, of course, but as the avocado had never, never been part of my household grocery list growing up (I mean, not even guacamole), and as I had first eaten one on a sandwich as a thirteen year old on a visit to Provence Breads with my theater-people great-Uncle George, I figured the rest of the world shared my ignorance. I was wrong! Take a look:

Things I learned from Wikipedia and/or the California Avocado Commission's website:

  • Avocado grow on trees, in orchards (I don't know why this seems so weird to me)
  • In China, an avocado is known as what directly translates to an "alligator pear" or a "butter pear", owing to their scaly outerskin and rich fruit.
  • In Brazil, they add avocados to ice cream (what?!); in the Phillipines, they puree avocados, sugar, and milk into a dessert drink (what?!!).
  • An average avocado has a serving size of 1/5 the entire fruit (so-o-o-o, eating it whole is a bad thing. Dang it), with 50 calories per serving (35 of which is wonder it's called the butter pear).
  • Avocado trees were first brought to America in 1871 by Santa Barbarian (haha) Judge R.B. Ord.

Most of the suggestions in this pamphlet are pretty tame...Calavo and Tomato, Calavo stuffed with a creamy meat salad of your choice (which sounds way worse now that I'm typing it than it did in my head...). I'm always interested with the party idea of filling one hollowed out thing with another. It seems the height of sophistication to my poor little peasant brain to see crab meat salad in a whole-tomato shell, or baked cinammon sweet potatoes and marshmellows inside an orange shell..."special" serving indeed!

Here's where the avocado should be truly welcomed in a culinary setting-- on a salad or a sandwich! BLT with A in the place of the T? Sign me up! I do wonder about the regional availability of avocados...while it said that they shipped twenty-three varieties out of California by the time this pamphlet would have come out, did they ship a lot to the Southeastern United States? My mom, a fifth generation Nashvillian, pointed out once that she hadn't eaten a whole artichoke until she was well into her twenties', and I don't know if that's because of the market or because of the unadventurous nature of her palate.

The next series of scans are from Ebony magazine in 1961, which featured a column called "Date with a Dish" (get it? Get it? Another word for a pretty girl is a dish, except this is an actual food dish? I crack up all over again). This installment highlight the avocado as a "native American exotic fruit" (um, not true, but we'll go on) and usable in a variety of dishes. Which the magazine goes on to show you.


Have you ever heard of this before? I guess I shouldn't knock it before I try it, but I was honestly surprised to see what is essentially guacamole spread on AN EAR OF CORN. To the right, a slightly more palatable dish of fruit cocktail interspersed with avocados. Calm. Calm. Wash the night vision of the corn out of your eyes, Lisa...

I really like this accordion salad-- like the hollowed out food cups I mentioned earlier, it's another mark of sophistication to take pieces of things that don't match and arrange them with each other in a way that makes them of one whole-- at a party two weeks ago, I re-assembled a coffee cake ring into ring formation from several different flavored slices, resulting in this huge, round, accordion-varied MULTIFLAVOR ring. I was very impressed with myself. Again, the avocado and bacon looks delicious, but do you really want to add butter to the butter fruit?

The recipe on the left is just a recipe for barbecued steak, but then they add avocados as garnish, which I think is cheating in a list of "avocado" recipes. To the right, shrimp curry in avocado equals YES! YES! YES!

Do you remember the first avocado ya ever et? Am I just a hillbilly or did you yourself ever run into a situation where a strange, foreign food presented itself in a dish you were about to eat, and you either loved or hated it?

Hope you're in the process of having a great Tuesday; I'll see you tomorrow!


  1. So hungry for avocados!!! I feel very lucky to live in a land of avocados as they are one of the few foods that really work to make almost any other food that much better! I love them plain or on/inside everything! Mmmmm! My grandma's go-to is a hollowed avocado with crab salad inside - surely a recipe she got from a similar publication.

    1. Crab salad stuffed avocado-- so swank! :)

  2. The BLT with avocado and the avocado spread on the corn is making my stomach rumble...and I just ate lunch! I guess 50s ladies were more evolved than me too because I don't think I ate my first avocado until HS...when, not unlike you, I was exposed to it by someone I deemed very cosmopolitan.

    1. I am not sold on the corn idea! (watch me think it's delicious the second someone offers it to me) Do you think it's a regional thing? Matthew's mom, who spent a lot of her life in California, was just shocked when I, like my mom, had to admit I'd never had a whole artichoke before-- where I know we might have had them in the grocery store long ago, I don't think they were in many southern pantries on the ready.

  3. This isn't about avocados but your last questions reminded me of the first time that my Mom ever tasted hummus. She came to visit us in Nashville and we were so excited about this great restaurant and we took her there. "You have GOT to taste this amazing hummus that they make here!" we crowed. She took one bite and then actually spit it into her hand while going, "Pfft!!! Pfft!!"

    I kind of do want to try fresh guacamole on corn now.

    1. HAHAHA, poor Ma Kitsch! I love when something backfires so stupendously, like your hummus recommendation, that you can't help but laugh.

      DON'T BELIEVE THEIR LIES! I really think they're making it up with the avocado and corn!

  4. Great post! I read a diet book recently that had a recipe for "choco-mole", a dip/spead made with avocados and cocoa, which the author insisted was a delicious dessert treat. I'm not so sure about the deliciousness, I've got to be honest. I do love avocados, though. Mackie's in Green Hills has a salad with mango, avocado and crab that is very tasty if you are an avocado fan.

    1., can you imagine the avocado test kitchen for coming up with these recipes? They're going, "It's disgus...DELICIOUS! IT'S DELICIOUS, I SAY!" I'll have to try that salad, though, because I do love *normal* avocado dishes! :)

  5. Do you remember the scene in "The Bell Jar" where Esther is taken to the Good Housekeeping test kitchens and fed crabmeat and avocado?
    Yeah, I'm sorry......

    1. I gotta go back and check that out!



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