- Leanne Jwaskiewicz
-4 ripe avocados
Directions : Scrape out the 4 avocados into a bowl. Mash the avocado pieces with a fork until they become a lumpy paste. Stir in the tablespoon of mayonnaise for thickness, if desired. Chop up the onion and jalapeno pepper slices and add to the bowl. Squeeze the lemon, and then sprinkle the cumin spice over the ingredients in the bowl. Stir. Slice enough cherry tomatoes to cover the top of the dip. Once tomatoes are on, sprinkle mozzarella or cheddar cheese on top, if desired. *Note: If the optional items are left out of the recipe, the dish will be vegetarian and vegan.
Surrounded in the warm dim light of the candles, Abby, Amanda and me sat waiting anxiously for Mrs. Storto’s famous avocado dip. Accompanied by stories, tears, and the kind of laughter that hurts, the avocado dip was always a welcomed treat in our circle of recollective sisterhood. Abby’s mom, who lovingly became known as “Marm,” always shared our joys and sorrows in Abby’s living room. The frequent wine-induced evenings often led to sleeping on the couches in the very spots in which we had begun our night. One by one we would wake in the morning to find the left over dish and tortilla crumbs. Our lip gloss stained wine glasses would give a nauseating reminder of the night past. With groans of stiff limbs, we would rise from our fetal positions and stumble into the kitchen. The coffee would be brewed as we laughed at each others’ appearances. Over coffee we would pick up our conversation from the night before as if we had never slept. This guacamole was not served outside this tight circle for a couple of years. Finally, after the urge could no longer wait for our reunions, we began to make the dip for other women in our lives. I make this dip for women-only functions in my social life. This dish has always been a nostalgic reminder of strong supportive femininity and sisterhood. It brings this very feeling with it at the table, a little frightening at first with its lumpy greenness but anyone who has ever tried it can attest to its savory flavor. This is my herstory of the avocado. Unfortunately, the history is slightly different…
The avocado was first grown in “southern Mexico but was cultivated from the Rio Grande to central Peru before the arrival of Europeans” (“Avocado: Origin and History”). There is some controversy around who first discovered the avocado; it is a similar dilemma to that of Columbus’s discovery of America. There is no documentation from the indigenous people (especially women) of the Mexican land on which the avocado was “discovered.” Thus, it has been deduced that either Martin Fernandez de Enciso or Hernando Cortez discovered this fruit. Martin Fernandez de Enciso wrote the first book, the Suma de Geografia, to describe the avocado; however, “some literature suggests that Cortez, the first European to set foot in Mexico City, was the first man to discover the avocado for the New World” (“Avocado: Origin and History”). It is uncertain between these two men who actually made the discovery of the avocado, but one can infer that Enciso might have been the first since he had to travel back to Spain in order to write and publish his book. Thus, this created a span of time for Cortez to “discover” the fruit.
Either way, it is proposed that the avocado was never important or used before the invasion of the Europeans. The undocumented people living in this region before the Europeans used this fruit long before it was described in any book. In fact, there is suggestion that Cortez saw how the native people used the avocado as a staple food and therefore “discovered” its importance (“Avocado: Origin and History”). However, in light of feminist thought, one has to ask herself: what about the women? There is selective documentation of any colonial “discovery.” Therefore, Paula Gunn Allen’s observation of the “Red Roots of White Feminism” conveys that “the earliest white women on this continent (the US) were well acquainted with tribal women. They were neighbors to a number of tribes and often shared food, information, child care, and health care” (215). These same interactions are left to the imagination with Mexican women. There is no documentation of whether or not women were involved in the early usage and consumption of the avocado. “Little is made of these encounters in official histories…” (216). Unfortunately, the invisibility of women in historical texts will never allow confirmation of the indigenous existence in the discovery of the avocado; nonetheless, there is a powerful remaining presence of femininity in this ambiguity.
A more concrete connection between femininity and the avocado came about with the Aztec’s view of this forbidden fruit. The Aztec word for avocado was ahuacatl, which can be translated as testicle (Stradley). This name came from the shape and manner of growth in hanging pairs of the avocado. Due to this visual sexualization of the avocado, the Aztecs believed the fruit to be an aphrodisiac, which by the way “science can neither deny nor confirm as true” (California Avocado Commission). Because of this stigma surrounding the avocado, young virgins were not allowed to leave their homes during harvests for fear of being made impure. Thus, the sexualization of the avocado closely resembles the socialization of women through food advertisement as depicted in Susan Bordo’s “Unbearable Weight.” She states, “…food is constructed as a sexual object of desire, and eating is legitimated as much more than a purely nutritive activity…food is supposed to supply sensual delight and succor…as an erotic experience in itself” (112). Thus, like the Aztecs, contemporary American society views women’s indulgence in food as sexual and pleasurable. The difference is that the Aztecs wanted to protect “pure” women from this, while American culture encourages women to indulge in this sensuality of food.
American culture may not sexualize the avocado like the Aztecs, but, the U.S. has other complications surrounding the distribution of this fruit. In December of 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) placed strict regulations on the importation of Hass avocados from Mexico due to pest and quarantine threats to American agriculture. “Under the new regulations, Mexican Hass avocados may be imported into 31 States and the District of Columbia from October 15 through April 15” (APHIS). The choice of states allowed to receive importation is based on their northern locations away from heat and thus environments conducive to pest infestation. Furthermore, the dates allotted for importation are reflective of this condition as well. There are now rigid guidelines for permittees, distributors, transporters, and retailers to follow in order to allow the avocados to be imported from Mexico. However, in July of 2004, regulations are now being stretched to consider the allowance of Hass avocados into California. This would “end a 90-year ban on the import of the fruit to the state” (Nguyen). The California growers are not pleased with this idea, in that, it poses great threat to their lucrative avocado industry. The APHIS has implemented sufficient safeguards such as “inspections at Mexican orchards and packing facilities, and requirements that the fruit be moved in insect-proof containers” (Nguyen). Thus, the regulation may be loosened to permit the importation of Mexican Hass avocados into California.
The avocado has had a long and exhausting history and continues to be the center of controversy in 2004. It is no surprise since the avocado is grown, consumed and distributed all over the world as a great source of vitamins, dietary fibers and antioxidants. The discovery of the avocado brings light to feminist theories surrounding the invisibility of indigenous women in history. It has been assumed that women had no part in the use or harvest of this fruit before the European settlers appeared. Also, the Aztec’s sexualization of the avocado as an aphrodisiac and symbol of virginal impurity is closely related to the American association between food and feminine sexuality in advertising, both play off of oppressive assumptions about women. The avocado clearly has political implications in its history and distribution; however, when trying this recipe, I suggest closing your eyes and forgetting the historical controversy and instead visualize the herstory behind the fruit. Imagine the labor of love from the indigenous women whose very hands picked this fruit before the European settlers could claim the avocado as theirs. Imagine the many living rooms filled with the voices, the laughter, and sometimes the tears of women gathering to spend time with one another over a bowl of this dip. This is why I bring this dish to you; I believe it offers a representation of sisterhood that is unmatched.
APHIS. “Regulations Governing Mexican Hass Avocado Imports.” December 2002. Aphis.usda.gov. 14 November 2004. <www.aphis.usda.gov/ppq/avocados>.
“Avocado: Origin and History.” HungryMonster.com. 14 November 2004. <http://www.hungrymonster.com/FoodFacts/Food_Facts.cfm?Phrase_vch=Avoca
California Avocado Commission. “About Avocados/ Fun Facts.” California Avocado Commission. 14 November 2004 <http://www.avocado.org/avocado-facts/fun-facts.php>
Nguyen, Daisy. “Growers Don’t Want Avocados from Mexico.” 15 July 2004. Mail Tribune. 14 November 2004. <http://www.mailtribune.com/archive/ 2004/ 0715/biz/stories/01biz.htm>
Stradley, Linda. “All About Avocados/ Did You Know?” What’s Cooking America. 14 November 2004. <http://whatscookingamerica.net/avocado.htm>