Haven’t talked about food here in a while. Worms, yes, boobs too, even adult diapers but not food for quite some time. So tonight I will spend a moment or two talking about food, specifically fruit.
I eat fruit everyday here. My fruit intake usually comes in the form of juice, which these Brazilians take very seriously. This morning, for instance, I had pineapple juice mixed with mint. This afternoon, I had a vitamina, which is pretty much a fruit smoothie. And tonight I…well, I am having wine, which also comes from fruit, but for the purpose of this discussion, I will not count it as actual fruit. This discussion is about fresh fruit.
Often a person may go out to dinner and have, instead of an alcoholic drink, a juice. It is a nice departure from standard dinner drinks, and kind of makes me feel like a kid again getting served juice with dinner as if I can’t hang with the adults drinking beer or mixed drinks. And a person can pretty much order any kind of juice she wants: strawberry and kiwi, mango with mint and milk, I don’t know…any combination of anything. And it’s all fresh.
Generally the fruit is fresh here no matter what. I live down the street from a fruit market, where I went this evening to pick up peaches, pop corn, two carrots, and an avocado. I have been here for two months and just recently learned that those gigantic orbs with tight shiny bright green skins are avocados. They look absolutely nothing like the avocados in the States.
I love avocados. I loved them in the States. Wait ’til they’re nice and smushy ripe (you know by squeezing them with barely any pressure until you are sure your thumb will puncture the puckery dark green dragon skin), slice it in half keeping the pit on one side. I like to put just a little salt on the fruit to bring out its flavor and then, you know, just scoop in.
Last week, when I worked up the nerve to purchase one of those huge things (which, at the time I had no idea was an avocado, even though its Portuguese name, “abacate”, to the trained eye, ear, and human with the intelligence of a pillow may have been a dead giveaway to its English-equivalent name), I tentatively cut into its skin, relieved upon seeing its familiar soft mossy green inside color. I did my usual treatment of the fruit, sprinkled it with salt, put it in a bowl and dug in.
The flavor of a Brazilian avocado is entirely different from the flavor of one you might find in the US. While the northern variation’s appearance is small and tight, its flavor, in a way, is non-existant. It has a creamy texture, yes, but its flavor is much enhanced by the presence of salt because, without salt, there is only texture. Sure, there may be, if you have a good one, an inkling of a sweetness there, but often it is the coolness on the palate that the tongue reacts to. (My tongue, because it is relatively allergic to avocados, reacts by expanding and itching for hours after I eat an avocado straight from its skin, but because I love that salt-enhanced flavor of the fruit, I overlook the reaction.)
Ah but here in Brazil…the avocado is simply delicious. It is a fruit. I say it like that because, like the tomato, I question its “fruit” status in the States. Shouldn’t fruits be sweet? Shouldn’t they be juice-able? Shouldn’t I crave a bite into a fruit to have my thirst quenched? The image of a tomato or an avocado never begged the “thirst-quenching” title, and perhaps I speak only for myself, but maybe you can see where I’m going with this. Fruits should be all of the above. An avocado, for me, never was.
Until here. Until just last week. Until I placed my spoon into its soft green pulp and then into my mouth and realized I had been denied, by living in the United States, the experience of a real avocado.
I had stored the avocado in my refrigerator, while for days I had opened and closed the door eyeing the would-be fruit suspiciously, as if I didn’t trust what it told me, as if its story didn’t quite line up with mine. So when I scooped that first spoonful into my mouth, it was extra cool and extra smooth because it had ripened juuuust so. Maybe it knew it had to be extra good because this was a make-it-or-break-it moment. Although I was surprised and elated at its temperature and texture, I was more caught off-guard by its flavor.
And avocado–a good one, maybe only a Brazilian one–is sweet. I mean, it is sweet like pudding. It has actual flavor. It has so much flavor, in fact, that the salt I had sprinkled on top of the one half made it taste bad.
Ditching the salty half, I ate the other plain. It was a divine dessert. Absolutely, precisely what my body craved without knowing. In fact, I so craved the avocado that I bought another today, not at all deterred by its size this time. I chose a relatively small one because I didn’t want to overdo it. They all felt perfectly ripe.
Note that I said, “I chose a relatively small one.” This means that there were ones much larger than the one I chose this afternoon after school. Sure, there were some smaller, but none the size you might find in the US. The average avocado here is the size of a mango in the US. Of course, this is a fact.
As I am always looking to compare things to one another, as good thinkers and the intelligentsia are apt to do (Brazil compared to the US, men compared to women, lunatics to the divine), I began to think of ways to compare Brazilian avocados to other familiar things. Because it would be inane for me to compare Brazilian avocados to the size of Brazilian bags of sugar, knowing my readers don’t know the average size of a Brazilian bag of sugar, I opted instead to compare it to something human. And since I had just dug out the inside of half of the avocado, leaving only the thick green skin as its own large bowl, I raised it to the level of my these for a rough comparison.
Oh, dear readers. If ever I had reason to explore the prices and procedures of plastic surgery, it would be tonight when I realized that half of a Brazilian avocado–half–is larger than both of my American these put together. Yes, crammed into one half of a green avocado shell, I could easily fit the very fruits that appear to make me a woman.
And so now I sit here on my pink couch with my customary bowl of popcorn, sipping a glass of wine, and lamenting how much money I will be pouring into the Push-Up line of Victoria’s Secret in the coming years.