Avocado Chronicles: 4 avotoast

Although, or perhaps because, I live in one of the world’s avocado toast hot spots, I’d hoped to avoid posting on the silly fad for avotoast, but then this Mother Goose and Grimm cartoon — with its pun on toast — appeared in my comics feed:


(#1) Up off the counter and onto the table

Three things: avocados, toast, and avocado toast.

Background: avocado. There have been three Avocado Chronicles postings so far:

— Avocado Chronicles: 1 “The gay avocado” section of the 7/11/19 posting “Three Pride moments”

the 7/13/19 posting “Avocado Chronicles: 2 etymology and etymythology”

the 7/14/19 posting “Avocado Chronicles: 3 the chemical formula”

With at least one more to come.

Background: toast. Two relevant postings:

— a 7/29/14 posting “toast”, with this Calvin and Hobbes strip:

(#2)

The strip exploits the ambiguity of toast as a noun (delightfully, to my mind).

From NOAD: 1 sliced bread browned on both sides by exposure to radiant heat. 2 a call to a gathering of people to raise their glasses and drink together in honor of a person or thing, or an instance of drinking in this way.

But, astonishingly, the two nouns (though clearly quite distinct in modern English, as are the corresponding verbs) have a common historical source [involving toast in sense 1]. The tale is one of those stories that might make you believe in any damn fanciful etymology.

a 3/9/16 posting “The miracle of toast”, with an inventory of my (wide-ranging) postings on toast

Meanwhile (thanks to Kim Darnell), in the vein of Calvin and Hobbes, this People magazine piece, “A ‘Toast’ to 2017! Adorable 3-Year-Old Mistakes New Year’s Eve Tradition for Piece of Bread: When Madeline Hall’s parents told her about the traditional salutation, the toddler could hardly contain her excitement” by Rose Minutaglio from 1/5/17:

(#3)

Madeline Hall would like some jam with that New Year’s Eve toast, please!

When the 3-year-old’s parents told her about the traditional salutation, the toddler could hardly contain her excitement.

” ‘Toast?! Yeah, okay sounds good!’ ” Kristin Hall tells PEOPLE her spunky daughter said as she drove with husband Bill Hall to a New Year’s Eve celebration in Newtown, Connecticut. “We were telling Madeline about the holiday and told her she could have a glass of apple cider with her toast to the new year.

“We didn’t realize she thought it literally meant a piece of bread!”

After dinner with her grandparents and extended family, Madeline couldn’t contain her excitement for the toast any longer.

“She just pipes up so loud and says, ‘Soo… Are we going to make toast now?!’ ” says Kristin of her preschool daughter. “We were like, ‘What?’ “

Obviously, Madeline meant a piece of bread (her favorite is strawberry jam with butter) — but it took a minute for the adults to get it.

“She’s so fun and takes everything very literally,” says Kristin. “The toast thing was so unintentionally clever, she had no idea how funny as it was. We didn’t want to let her down, so we made toast!”

No doubt many children have had the same misapprehension. But it was probaby a slow news day at People magazine, and cute kids always sell well.

Foreground: avocado toast. From the Wikipedia entry, which is unusually thorough, with a recipe from the Spend With Pennies site:


(#4) Your basic mashed avocado on toasted sourdough, sprinkled with salt and pepper — plus, you rub the hot toast with garlic; squeeze fresh lemon juice on it; and drizzle it with olive oil and sprinkle it with chopped cilantro or parsley

Avocado toast is a type of open sandwich or toast made with mashed avocado and salt, pepper, and citrus juice on toast. Potential additional ingredients that enhance the flavor are olive oil, hummus, red pepper flakes, feta, dukkah, tomato, and many other toppings.

Relatively recently, avocado toast became a food trend of the 2010s. It has appeared on café menus since at least the 1990s. Following avocado toast’s elevation to trend status, the act of ordering avocado toast at a café was criticised as a symbol of frivolous spending.

… In the San Francisco Bay Area, people have been eating avocado toast since at least 1885. In 1915, the California Avocado Association described serving small squares of avocado toast as a hors d’oeuvre. According to The Washington Post, it was believed that chef Bill Granger may have been the first person to put avocado toast on his café menu in 1993. In 1999, Nigel Slater published a recipe for an avocado “bruschetta” in The Guardian. The journalist and editor Lauren Oyler credited Cafe Gitane with bringing the dish to the United States in its “Instagrammable” form, as it grew as a food trend. Chloe Osborne, the consulting chef at Cafe Gitane in Manhattan, who first put avocado toast on the menu tried it herself for the first time in Queensland, Australia in the mid-1970s.

In 1962, a New York Times article showcased a “special” way to serve avocado as the filling of a toasted sandwich. In another article published in The New Yorker on May 1, 1937, titled “Avocado, or the Future of Eating,” the protagonist eats “avocado sandwich on whole wheat and a lime rickey.”

Modern day: Jayne Orenstein of The Washington Post reports, “avocado toast has come to define what makes food trends this decade: It’s healthy and yet ever-so-slightly indulgent. It can be made vegan and gluten-free. Avocado toast has become a symbol of healthy and trendy living, led by Instagram models and popular Youtubers. It’s so Instagrammable that #avocadotoast has over 100,000 posts. And most important of all: It is wholeheartedly endorsed by Gwyneth Paltrow.” Gwyneth Paltrow has been credited to be the source of the popularization of avocado toast. She wrote in her cookbook, “truthfully this is one ‘recipe’ both Julia [co-author] and I make and eat most often! And it’s not even a recipe,” she writes. “It’s the holy trinity of [vegan mayonnaise], avocado and salt that makes this like a favorite pair of jeans  —  so reliable and easy and always just what you want.” With social media, the popularization of the food grew and after Paltrow’s book food bloggers recreated the dish and merchandise being created. Bon Appétit magazine published a recipe for “Your New Avocado Toast” in its January 2015 issue…

Hannah Goldfield, an author for The New Yorker said, “according to David Sax, the most successful food trends reflect what’s going on in society at a given time. Americans wanted cupcakes [and, I think, mac ‘n’ cheese, now available almost everywhere and in very fancy versions] ten years ago, he told Brickman, because they sought childhood comforts after the trauma of 9/11; Americans wanted fondue in the sixties because they aspired to cosmopolitanism. Artisanal toast, one might posit, represents our intensifying obsession with and fetishization of food. Every meal is special and important, every dish should be elevated, revered, and broadcast — even something as pedestrian as toast.” She argues that we are what we eat in terms of identity. “Avocado toast” —  which might be described as a sub- or tangent-trend — has grown particular legs because it overlaps with another potent trend: “clean living.” The fad has reportedly increased the price of avocados.

The industry body Australian Avocados has several recipes for avocado toast on its website, including avocado on sweet potato toast, avocado and Vegemite toast, French toast with avocado and parmesan, avocado toast fingers with soft-boiled eggs, avocado and baked beans on toast, and avocado and feta smash on toasted rye. Another common variation is toast with smashed avocados, soft-boiled egg, and other toppings, often including hot sauce.

Political symbolism: According to Lauren Oyler from Broadly, “in certain demographics — young, urban, upwardly mobile, on Instagram—avocado on toast has surpassed the grilled cheese as the go-to easy-and-filling bread-based lunch, moving far beyond the curious-minded trend pieces it inspired in 2014 and 2015 to become a regular feature in the bourgeoisie’s diet.”

[The Australian toast craze:] In Australia in late 2016, avocado smashed on toast became a political flashpoint, after columnist Bernard Salt in The Australian wrote in a satirical article that he had seen “young people order smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more”, arguing that they should be saving to buy a house instead. Millennials countered that they felt “a sense of futility” in saving for a house with the high cost of housing in Australia, and that figures showed that even if they gave up avocado toast, it would still take about a decade to save for a home deposit. Furthermore, cafes were said to have become the primary space for millennials to catch up with their friends. In the wake of the controversy, several cafes offered ‘discount’ versions of smashed avocado on toast. Home lender ME bank started a home loan campaign with the slogan “Have your smashed avo and eat it too”.

Tim Gurner, a 35-year-old Australian property developer, stated in May 2017 that millennials should not be buying smashed avocado on toast and $4 lattes in their pursuit of home ownership. In response to this, it was estimated that the savings of forgoing avocado on toast would be an estimated €500 annually, and that at this rate it would take over 500 years to save for a house in the Republic of Ireland, at current market prices.

Where I live, in the Bay Area avotoast hot spot, almost every non-ethnic restaurant offers the stuff. Some people seem to view it as a necessary concomitant to a latte.

Coming soon perhaps: a craze for cinammon toast, accompanied by elegant teas. Sort of a cross of elevated food, clean living, and comfort food.

Meanwhile, avocado toast combines the exotic creaminess of the tropical avocado with the proletarian pleasures of guacamole as the premier sports fan dip.

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