We Texans eat our collective weight in guacamole every year, but we rarely pause to praise the humble avocado. Humans have always made delicious use of this marvel of nature, whose physical attributes have inspired a bushel of imaginative names. Take ahuacatl, a moniker bestowed by the Aztecs that also means “testicle” (proof that our species has long been delighted by low-hanging fruit). As if that’s not interesting enough, the alligator pear, so called for its nubby, swamp-colored hide, is thought to be an evolutionary anachronism, its mechanism of propagation—which entailed being swallowed whole, seed and all, and “deposited” elsewhere by prehistoric creatures like giant ground sloths—extinct. The aguacate likely wouldn’t exist today if not for humans, not to mention near-genius marketing campaigns that have made a leathery pod of mushy greenish-yellow flesh, with a flavor so delicate as to be almost nonexistent, America’s favorite new millennia-old fruit. Of course, it’s been one of our state’s favorite fruits for a long time, an essential component of the Tex-Mex table. Now if it can only survive the double whammy of droughts (California) and drug cartels (Mexico) that threatens to make it a luxury item, we’ll keep mashing it up into guacamole, which must surely be the indomitable, funny-looking avocado’s highest calling.
A fine guacamole is entirely dependent on the quality of your avocados, and getting good ones (creamy, blemish-free flesh) can be a crapshoot. Buy a few more than you need and hope for the best. Great-tasting avocados require little more than a sprinkle of salt, but doctoring them up is part of the fun. Folks will argue over what does and doesn’t belong in a proper guacamole, but you should feel free to just start with a basic recipe, like the one below, and then add whatever you want—diced tomatoes, minced garlic, a handful of cilantro, a sprinkle of cumin.
Makes about 2 cups
3 ripe avocados (preferably Hass)
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
1 jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed, diced (can use more or less depending on your tolerance)
lime juice to taste (but go easy so as not to overwhelm the avocado)
salt to taste
Mash the avocados with a fork, leaving the mixture a little chunky, then add the other ingredients, tasting as you go.