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Avocado time travels. August 31, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I wanted to follow up yesterday’s “Eat your avocado… leaves?!” post with some avocado recipes for you to try… if you dare. (If you missed it, check out yesterday’s post by scrolling down or typing the title in our search bar at upper right.)

But amateur food historian that I am, rather than giving you authentic—or even necessarily good—recipes, I wanted to see what people in the U.S. were doing with avocados in earlier eras. So I turned to my collection of vintage cookbooks to see what was on offer.

My first try, Fannie Merritt Farmer’s The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book (1915), came up empty. I’m thinking that maybe avocados weren’t exactly a drug on the Boston market back in 1915. (By contrast, my 1980 copy of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook has eight avocado recipes, including avocados with chicken stuffing; hearts of palm salad with avocados; avocado mayonnaise; cold avocado soup; watercress, orange slices and avocado salad; avocado-yogurt soup; and wheat berries, bean sprouts, tomato, and avocado salad, as well as, of course, guacamole. I’m sure old Fannie would be proud.)

Out in San Francisco, the avocado was on the menu in 1919, the year The Hotel St. Francis Cookbook was published. Their lunch menu for October 23 featured the following: “Avocado, French dressing. Split the avocado, remove the pit, and fill half full with a dressing made with salt, pepper, a little French mustard, and one-third vinegar and two-thirds olive oil.”

By 1943, the year my copy of The Joy of Cooking was published, Irma S. Rombauer was giving the average American housewife 15 ways to eat their avocados. They could try Avocado and Bacon; Avocado and Shrimp Salad; Avocado Cocktails I and II; Avocado Dressing; Avocado Filled with Lobster or Crabmeat Salad; Avocado Mousse; Avocado, Orange and Grapefruit Salad; Puree of Avocado; Avocado Salad; Mexican Avocado Salads I and II; Molded Avocado Salad; Avocado Spread (Guacamole); and Avocados Filled with Creamed Food. We’ll be revisiting some of these classics a bit later.

Moving forward in time, we next come to that priceless testament to the Hippie Era, Mo Willett’s Vegetarian Gothic (1975). Like The Hotel St. Francis Cookbook, it contains a single avocado recipe, Avocado-Egg Salad. Ms. Willett suggests cutting 3 ripe avocados in wedges, 4 ripe tomatoes in eights, 1 large cucumber in chunks, and 4 hard-boiled eggs into “small pieces,” then tossing it all together and serving it cold on “pieces” of lettuce. She says the ripe avocados will make their own dressing so there’s no need to add one. And of course she ends the recipe with “Save your avocado pits and grow trees from them.”

Let’s end our time travels by finally reaching the Southwest in 1988 with The Pink Adobe Cookbook by Rosalea Murphy. What was cooking at Santa Fe’s famous The Pink Adobe restaurant in 1988, avocado-wise? In addition to their signature Pink Adobe guacamole, diners (and home cooks) could enjoy avacado and chicken casserole; avocado dream boats; avocado-jalapeno soup; and halves of avocado stuffed with chicken in chile sauce. Here for your dining pleasure is the recipe for Pink Adobe guacamole, which Ms. Murphy rather startlingly described as “cool chartreuse velvet.” (I’m sure our fabric-eating black German shepherd, Shiloh, would approve.) But whatever.

               Pink Adobe Guacamole

2 large ripe avocados

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small onion, minced

1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh green chiles or 1 4-ounce can green chiles, chopped (2 cans if you’re a real southwesterner) 

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1-3 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste

1 large lettuce leaf, for garnish

Paprika, for garnish

Tomato slices, for garnish

Tostados

Peel and remove the pit from the avocados. Mash with a silver fork* until the pulp is very smooth. Blend in garlic, onion, chiles, and salt. Mix in the mayonnaise and stir in the lemon juice. Serve nestled with a lettuce leaf in your prettiest shallow bowl; garnish with paprika and surround with tomato slices and tostado chips for dipping. Serves 6. [She also provides recipes for making tostado chips and mayo from scratch.]

Is The Pink Adobe still serving Rosalea’s guacamole in 2011? I checked their menus, and they certainly serve guacamole with several of their New Mexican dishes, but it was not identified as anything special. If anybody’s eaten there lately, please let us know! Meanwhile, let’s compare and contrast Mrs. Rombauer’s 1943 version:

             Avocado Spread (Guacamole)

This makes a pretty canape or a fine dish in which to dip potato chips. Mexicans sometimes add chopped tomato to it, but I prefer it this way.

Pare: 1 or 2 avocados

Mash the pulp with a fork. Add to it:

Onion juice**

Lemon juice

Salt

Heap this on small crackers or toast.

Garnish with: Paprika and parsley

A good holiday touch is a bit of pimiento or a slice of stuffed olive.

** Or, omit the juices and add pickled onions, chopped. Minced sauteed bacon may be added.

Well, at least Mrs. Rombauer didn’t insist that her readers use a silver spoon! If anyone tries this, please do let us know what you think. Moving on, what’s an avocado cocktail? A martini with an avocado slice thrown in along with the pickled onion and green olive? Mercifully not. But the reality might be even scarier: avocado halves filled with tomato juice cocktail or chili sauce (horseradish optional for both), or marinated seedless grapes (?! no mention of what the marinade should be, I suppose everyone knew), or finely chopped dill pickles.

But we’re just warming up here. In 1943, aspics and “molded salads” were the ultimate in sophistication. Eeeewwww!!!! I double-dog dare you to make one of these recipes, and if you do, you’d better check back in and tell us all about it. Or send us a link to a blog post of your own that shows the finished conglomeration, I mean, er, mousse or whatever, in all its monstrous glory:

                  Molded Avocado Salad

I. Dissolve: 1 (3 1/4 oz.) package lemon-flavored gelatine in: 1 3/4 cups boiling water

Add:

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon horseradish

1 teaspoon grated onion

Chill these ingredients until they begin to set. Beat the jelly with an egg beater. Fold in: 2 peeled and diced avocados

Place the salad in an oiled mold or in individual molds. When chilled invert it onto: Lettuce leaves

Serve it with: Herb mayonnaise

II. Or soak: 1 tablespoon gelatine in: 2 tablespoons water

Dissolve it in: 1 cup boiling water

Add:   

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 cup mashed avocado

1/4 teaspoon celery salt

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

A few grains of cayenne

1/4 cup chopped pimiento

To mold and serve the salad follow the above rule.

Hungry for more? Let’s kick things up a notch and move on to that ultimate in elegance, Avocado Mousse:

           Avocado Mousse

Soak: 1 tablespoon gelatine in: 1/2 cup cold water

Dissolve it in: 1/2 cup boiling water or stock

Add:

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon onion juice

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 cups avocado pulp, mashed

Chill these ingredients until they are about to set. Whip, then fold in:

1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped

1/2 cup mayonnaise

Place the salad in an oiled mold. Chill it.

Serve it on: Lettuce

Surrounded by:

Grapefruit and orange sections

Pineapple wedges

Gee, they just don’t make food the way they used to. Or do they? One of my contemporary Southwest cookbooks touts the enormous popularity of its chef-author’s famous Avocado Pops, which really are, sadly, avocado popsicles.

Also sadly, I don’t have a contemporary edition of The Joy of Cooking, so I can’t check to see if these delicious molded treats are still featured. If anyone would like to go to the trouble of checking their copy, I’d love to know what avocado recipes are included these days!

           ‘Til next time,

                     Silence

* At first, despite the “chartreuse velvet,” I thought maybe Ms. Murphy recommended using a silver fork to prepare the avocado to prevent the flesh from discoloring, a huge problem with avocados unless they’re eaten immediately or doused in citrus juice. But after “your prettiest shallow bowl,” I’m not so sure.

Disclaimer: Capitalization, punctuation, presentation, and spelling are consistent with the original recipes, and may vary rather wildly from recipe to recipe. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks.

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Comments»

1. Becca - August 31, 2011

We love avocados here at BrightHaven! We eat them straight from the peel with a little Greek seasoning. Mmmm…However, we’re very picky as to the ripeness factor and have been disappointed several times lately. But–that’s not the point! I have a book called “The Alluring Avocado Recipes Hot and Cold,” published in 1966 by Judy Hicks and Mims Thompson. Thought you may get a kick out of hearing about it!

Thanks, Becca! I’ll have to keep an eye out for that one! If memory serves, Diana Kennedy said you could tell when an avocado was ripe because it gave a bit when pushed gently at the stem end, and that you didn’t want one where you could hear the pit rattling when you shook it.

2. Maurice - December 13, 2011

I don’t know how common it was, but my grandmother, who lived in Los Angeles from the 1920s to the 1970s, made us avocado sandwiches for our picnics at the beach in the 1950s. She didn’t leave her recipe as far as I know and don’t know its origin, I was quite young (and a boy) so not very acquainted with its preparation but I suspect it was based on the Joy of Cooking spread you cite, with a bit of Worcestershire, Tabasco, or both.

Ha! Sounds like you were way ahead of the rest of us in terms of enjoying avocados, Maurice!


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