I love avocados. I eat them at dinner and sometimes for breakfast or lunch in the form of an avocado sandwich (avocado chunks between two slices of Italian bread and a little olive oil). In my culture, avocados are ever present. It amazes me when some of my Anglo friends state they have never eaten this fruit (and it is a fruit) or don't even know what it is. The more amazing since avocados are cultivated almost everywhere these days. By that I mean they are grown not only in the Caribbean, Florida and California, but also in South Africa, Chile, Brazil, Hawaii, Australia, France, Sicily, Egypt, and even Israel. And these days you get them year round. Not like in my youth when they were available mainly in the summer months and September.

Avocados have been with us ever since the Conquistadors landed in Mexico in 1519. Avocados got their name from the Spanish. They couldn't pronounced the Aztec name for it, ahuacatl. Instead they called it "aguacate." I figure what got the Spaniards interested was that the Aztecs considered the avocado a sex stimulant (the name, ahuacatl, means "testicle"). Whether you believe it or not, they are delicious, simply peeled, cut into slices and served, sprinkled with a little salt.

They are numerous avocado varieties out there. My favorite are of the West Indian type, especially the "Butler" which is grown in Puerto Rico. It's medium large, a glossy green and has a smooth skin. I also like the "Itzamma," also produced in the island. This one is very large with a rough skin and a very attractive yellow flesh. The most common avocados as of late are the Hass variety (it was first cultivated in California in 1926). They are found almost everywhere. Here, in the wilds of Vermont, where my wife and I spend the summers, that is the only type we can get. I am not a particular fan of this variety. But, it'll do in a pinch when nothing else is available. It's akin to the experience I had years ago when I visited a friend in Montana. There were no New York style bagels to be had. We had to eat Lender's frozen bagels. And, guess what, they weren't too bad since there was nothing else. One must adjust to the circumstances.

If you're not too sure about picking out a ripe avocado, simple: press on the skin. If there is a slight indentation, then it's ripe. Another method (especially with large avocados) is to hold them to your ear and shake them. If you hear the pit moving inside, it's ripe. Do not select over-ripe avocados---those with a dark purplish almost black skin and that are soft and mushy to the touch.

Below is an avocado-crabmeat salad from my first cookbook, Puerto Rican Cuisine in America. If you can't find or afford fresh lump crabmeat, canned crabmeat will do. The dish goes great with steamed white rice.


1 pound fresh lump crabmeat
1 cup mayonnaise

1 lemon, cut in half

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 fully ripened avocados

2 medium ripe tomatoes. cored and cut into slender wedges

Extra salt for sprinkling

Parsley sprigs for garnish

1. Pick over crabmeat to remove any shell or cartilage.

2. In a bowl, combine crabmeat, mayonnaise, juice of 1/2 lemon, onion, garlic, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix lightly.

3. Cut avocado in half, peel and remove pit. Cut each half into 6 to 8 wedges. Squeeze remaining lemon half over the avocado to prevent discoloration.

4. Place crabmeat in the center of a large serving platter. Arrange avocado and tomato wedges alternately around the crabmeat. Sprinkle wedges slightly with salt.

5. Garnish with parsley sprigs and serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

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