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Ode to the Avocado

In Costa Rica, I have rediscovered the avocado (aguacate). Has there ever been a more perfect fruit? It has the loveliest shape, a small and heavy orb, beautifully rounded at the bottom and tapering into a graceful curve at the top. Perfectly weighted and balanced. A luscious feminine form, like the provocative slope from shoulder to hip on a Rubenesque woman, full figured and generously proportioned. Thus, it’s odd to me that it was named by Indian tribes as the ahuacatl, which etymologically links it to a man’s testicles due to its shape, and ancient cultures considered it essential to virility and fertility.

Avocados are plentiful here now, to be found in crates, piled high, at all local street vendor’s stalls that pop up periodically on the road into town. I prefer the small organic grocery stand that often sets up in front of the church. It’s a small oasis filled with bananas, watermelons, cantaloupes, apples and fragrant strands of garlic that dangle from the poles used to support the cloth tarp draped over the produce, providing a welcoming slice of shade. I enjoy rummaging through the crates, touching each avocado, feeling its firm, textured skin to locate the one that is almost ready to be eaten. It must be firm but with a slight spring to the touch, as the meat inside is softening to a delectable consistency—like slightly warmed butter or room-temperature Camembert cheese.

The color of an almost-ripe avocado is shaded in earthy hues of green, varying in lightness and darkness, and if you look closely, you can also detect tones of brown, deep blue and almost black at the peak of the fruit, where it was picked. An avocado fits perfectly in the palm of your hand, conveniently wrapped in its own protective skin for maximum portability, making it ideal for picnics and trips to the ocean. No baggie required.

Cut one open and you’ll find the tempting meat of the fruit and the hearty seed in its center, a large and generous heart. The internal green reminds me of spring lawns, freshly sprinkled with rain, an umbrella of palm fronds above my head on the beach, the glossy feathers of a parrot, or the amazingly complex hide of an iguana. It’s a welcoming bright green that gradates from light to dark as the fruit expands from its core to its casing. The interior world of the avocado is in perfect contrast and perfect harmony with its exterior world, its skin. Outside: dark, mysterious and delightfully bumpy. Inside: vivid, lush, creamy and smooth.

I am now addicted to this gift from nature, this treasure I found again in Samara. It tastes like nothing else … a fruit that acts like a vegetable and can be substituted for a meat. It can fill a sandwich (perfect with sliced tomato, a little cheese, and some crusty bread), grace a salad, be mashed into a spread or dip, or pureed into a sauce. Here, the chef makes an avocado sauce, a rich and creamy cover to pour over grilled chicken or fish. Perfection on a plate.

The Costa Rican avocado is fruit at its finest. Nutritious, versatile, completely delectable, and aesthetically formed. A true work of art, complete in its beauty.