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Guacamole’s Mixed History, Served with A Side of Importance

 

Where did guacamole come from?  I always see it in the Chili’s food chain restaurants with two choices: guacamole and freshly made guacamole.  Guacamole still costs more at Chipotle, for some unknown overcharged issue.  Since I was growing up in Fort Lauderdale, my favorite Mexican restaurants would serve me fantastic guacamole with my cheese nachos.  What’s the difference?  Where did it come from and who cares?  Well… I care, and what I am going to accomplish here is provide a better understanding of the history of guacamole, the ingredients that go into it, and its importance as a meal option.

Guacamole dates back to the Aztecs.  Aztecs believed the avocado to be an aphrodisiac, unlike the awful pickup lines you hear in bars.  Avocados were discovered in 1920 by Rudolph Hass, a mail carrier; this is why we have the name Hass Avocados (Gourmet Sleuth ).  In 1935, he obtained a patent on avocados, the first ever patent on a tree.  Another reason for its popularity was the fact that avocados have the highest fat content of any fruit.  They are also a good source of folate, potassium, and vitamin B6.  More than 50% of an avocado’s calories come from monounsaturated fat.  Diets with avocados in them can also help lower cholesterol.   A 2013 study by the National Institute of Health showed that 26 healthy overweight adults lost weight when they consumed avocados; it decreased their desire to overeat.  What they found was that since avocados are dense, they would stay in the body longer, suppressing the appetite.

It is not just avocados that make this dish relevant; it is the blend of all the ingredients that come together, like cilantro.  Cilantro is a vegetable that comes out of the countries of Peru and Ecuador.  Cilantro is centuries old, but growing in popularity by the Latin community.  Cilantro varies in different cooking styles.  The most popular food to cook cilantro with, surprisingly, is seafood.  Peruvians tend to cook it with slices of cold sweet potatoes or corn on the cob. In Ecuador, it compliments popcorn or nuts.  It is also served in large crystal bowls so guests can help themselves by using toothpicks.  Mexico serves cilantro with raw onions on tortillas.  Yes, both avocados and cilantro blend to mold this spectacular dish of guacamole, but not without another counterpart: the onion.

Onion is critical to the essence of creating guacamole (National Association of Onion).  Onions are an incredible vegetable with a lot of benefits.  Most researchers agree that onions were first cultivated five thousand years ago.  Onions are among one of the earliest cultivated crops ever harvested.  They were less perishable than other vegetables.  The onion was also useful for sustaining human life.   Onions prevented illness and could be dried and preserved for later consumption.   Onions also grew in Chinese gardens five thousand years ago, as referenced in some of the oldest Vedic writings from India.  In Egypt, onions can be traced back to 3500 B.C. There is evidence that Sumerians grew onions as early as 2500 B.C., Sumerian texts suggest.  In Egypt, onions were considered to be an object of praise.  The onion symbolized eternity to the Egyptians, who buried onions along with their pharaohs.  The Egyptians saw eternal life in the anatomy of the onion due to its circle-within-a-circle structure.  Paintings of onions were seen on the inner walls of the Egyptian tombs in both the old and new kingdoms.  The onion was also suggested as a funeral offering back then; they would shower them upon the altars of the gods.  Egyptian priests are pictured holding onions in their hands or covering a platform with a bundle of their leaves or roots.  Mummies have been found with onions in their pelvic regions, thoraces, ears, and eyes.  One example of this is King Ramses IV, who died in 1160 B.C.; he was entombed with onions in his eyes.

Additionally, onions were eaten by Israelites in the Bible.  In verse 11:5 of the Book of Numbers, children of Israel lament the meager desert diet enforced by the departure: “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic.”  One Greek physician, in the First century A.D., was noted as using onions for medicinal uses.  Greeks used onions also for the Olympic Games.  In competition, athletes would consume a whole onion, drink onion juice, and rub onions on their bodies.

Now we come to our next ingredient; by itself it is not my favorite, but it goes well with a salad and is delightful when you make guacamole: the tomato.

 

The tomato’s history traces back to the early Aztecs in 700 A.D.; therefore, it is believed that tomatoes are native to the Americas.  In the 16th Century, Europeans were introduced to the fruit when early explorers sailed to the new lands.  Throughout Southern Europe, vegetables got quickly accepted in the kitchen.  The British admire the tomato for its beauty; however, they resist its lousy look in comparison to the wolf peach.  Europeans thought the plant was poisonous because of the way plates and flatware were made in the 1500’s.  Back then, wealthy people used flatware made of pewter, a high lead content food high in acid, like the tomato.  The primary concern here was lead poison among the people.

It was in the 1800s that the Italians were eating vegetables more than anyone else.  What changed here was the mass immigration from Europe to America, along with the traditional blending of cultures.  Italian Americans ate tomatoes and brought the food with them.  Then, the invention of the pizza was invented around Naples in the late 1880’s.   Pizza was created by a restaurateur in Naples to celebrate the visit of Queen Margaret, the first Italian monarch since Napoleon conquered Italy.  He made pizza from three ingredients, representing the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green.  The red represented the tomato sauce on the pizza; white was the mozzarella cheese; and the green was basil topping.  Pizza Margarita was now born and is still the standard for pizza. The tomato was not fully accepted until the Civil War period in the United States.  It was at that transition point that tomatoes became so widely accepted.) and test which type of guacamole represents you.  Apparently, I am class Mexican guacamole.  I am direct and to the point and like no-nonsense.  I like to play by the rules and do not find myself coloring outside the lines.  I am not too sure about that last one; I am terrible at coloring.  The reason I mention this is because guacamole reaches beyond a simple food dish.

Dandelion

Here in Winter Park, there is a restaurant called Dandelion.  Every Tuesday, they hold an open mic for poetry and comedy.  What if I told them that poetry was dedicated to guacamole?   Avocados Mexico has slam poetry pieces.  One poem, the “GuacGroove,” captures the sensation of holding the avocado and the feeling you get before you use it to make your masterpiece.  Also, it makes you think the author is in love with the fact that avocados have shaped his life.  The “Holy Guacamole” poem, although short, comes from the perspective of a writer talking about having a spicy guacamole.  “Easy Being Green” is one of the laziest lyrics I’ve seen: “My guac is so green. Like a spring meadow in bloom, sans other colors.”  I really have no idea what the message here is; it is too short for me to understand.  Of the many poems about guacamole I read, “The Little Green Like” was my favorite one.  It was about the struggles of a mother who wanted to feed her kids something of good quality and her journey to feed the children at night when she comes home.  I really connected with this one the most since I grew up in a single parent home.  My mother’s main dish was not guacamole, but when I read this poem, it made me reminisce about that time.  My mother put love into all the recipes she made, and it brings a tear to my eye when I think about it.  Surprisingly, this poem made me feel the same about that time. Dos Mexico

Reading about the ingredients, poetry, and history really makes me think about one of my favorite times with guacamole.  When I lived in Illinois, I made friends with a man from Mexico, Juan Tabora.  We would go out and party every weekend and sometimes host parties at his place.  Juan’s guacamole was one of the best versions of it I have ever had.  I had asked him, “Yo, man this stuff is the bomb!  Where did you learn to make something this good?”  Juan explained to me that it comes from love and history and that this recipe had been in his family for a long time.  He learned it from his girlfriend, who broke his heart.  I continued to ask him more questions about this dish: “Juan, did you make this because it reminds you of her?”  Juan continued his story with emotion.  In his entire story about her, I remember one part that stands out.  The guacamole dish reminded him of the good times he had with her, how loving she was to him even though it ended in heartbreak.  The dish reminded him of a better time and when he eats the dish, it is more of healing process than a delicious tasting meal.  I always thought love came only in relationships, but I was wrong.  Love is the time put into something.

Guacamole’s long history comes from a compound effect of happy nights and caring individuals. I have had my fair share of a bad version of guacamole, but most of the time that I have eaten guacamole, I have enjoyed it.  I can tell the difference from one with love and one without.  When I reminisce about Juan’s dish, I remember how amazing it tasted, but what made it come to fruition was a true love for guacamole.

Credit to Avocados Mexico

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