‘You don’t like avocados.’
‘Oh.’ And I believed her, because she told me. All the time.
My mother gently placed a small, ripe avocado in the shopping cart and steered it through the small produce section of our local Safeway. The year was 1987.
‘How about some apples?’ Apples were on sale for 49 cents a pound (Canada had switched to the metric system in the late 1970s, however, many resisted).
‘I don’t like apples.’ The apples we got in our local grocery store were always soft and mealy (I never had a really good apple until 2002, but that’s a different story, for another time).
‘I don’t like bananas.’ I always hated the texture of bananas, and those phloem bundles (stringy bits) always made me gag.
‘No.’ I didn’t like oranges either. I didn’t like many kinds of fruit or vegetables. I was a hardy, sturdy, thick (read: chubby) young girl from Northern British Columbia that grew up without concern for nutrition labels, antioxidants, or preservatives. We ate Kraft dinner from a box, Idaho scalloped potatoes from a sachet, Chef Boyardee pasta from a tin, and Mr. Noodles from a packet.
In those days, we simply did not have the choice. From field to table was around 3,000 kilometers, with most fruit and vegetables shipped from Mexico, Florida and California. The further north the trucks had to drive, the more expensive the fruit and vegetables would be. My mother would opt for whatever was in good supply, and whatever was on sale.
I always went along on our family’s weekly shop and occasionally, there would be a few small avocados on display. My mother would always pick one up, smile and place it gently in our cart.
I looked at the avocado in our shopping cart. ‘The avocado isn’t on sale, mom.’ It wasn’t: they never were. I was always concerned about money (but that’s a different story, for another time).
‘It’s okay. It’s my treat.’ My mother covered it up with a packet of Mr. Noodles. Hoping (I think) that I would forget all about it.
‘Can I try it?’ I was curious. What eight year-old isn’t?
‘But you don’t like avocados.’
‘Oh.’ And I believed her. For twenty-two years I believed her.
Then one day (in 2001), I was out grocery shopping and I saw avocados, on sale. At first I told myself, ‘I don’t like avocados’. But I couldn’t remember what they tasted like, and I couldn’t remember what I didn’t like about them. And they were on sale. So I bought one. I took it home, sliced it up and topped it with a little olive oil, salt and lemon juice.
It was delicious.
I immediately phoned my mother. ‘The jig is up.’ I asked her how many other delicious foods her and my father had been keeping from me, by telling me that I didn’t like it.
‘54?’ The number seemed a bit high. But then she got listing them, and I realized that she was actually low-balling her estimate.
‘Olives, lobster, chocolate, caviar, potatoes dauphinoise, shark’s fin soup, honey, foie gras, edible gold leaf, chorizo, hummus, ice cream…’
‘You said I was lactose intolerant!’
I have now tried all of the foods my parents told me I ‘didn’t like’. And (though I hate to admit it), they were right about some of them: Lobster is a bottom-feeding parasite, for example.
But when I think about avocados and their black pebbled skin, their pear-shaped, fleshy body and their abundance of monounsaturated fats, potassium, B vitamins, E vitamins, K vitamins, aliphatic acetogenins and fiber content, it stings.
Sure, I feel upset about being lied to by my mother for 22 years, but I feel even more upset about not eating avocados for 22 years.