The Perfect Avocado
It all began with the perfect avocado. One for each hand, plucked from a tree on a school biology walk one fresh-from-rain Pondicherry morning, by a boy who wanted to bring them home to his mother.
His mother was, admittedly, surprised. When the boy asked for gifts himself, it was always about gadgets or gears. His parents did not want him to grow up a Luddite, but it was a struggle to keep him away from the tablets and the phones and the screens that were like nodal points in their home. So when the boy came home with an avocado for each hand, his mother looked up, wondering if it was just that she’d been figured out. He had said it himself, once when they planned the outcomes of a reading contest, “I know what prizes Amma will ask for. She’ll ask for a meal or something, that’s all.” So she couldn’t help but wonder if that was all.
But then, the boy watched, excitedly, as the first avocado ripened. He reported its softening. He worried it would spoil. He wanted a taste, badly. He’d be upset if he didn’t get one.
His mother sat up then, and took it seriously. She set out a marinade for fajitas. She whipped up a salsa. And she called the boy to make guacamole the way it was supposed to be made, mashed in the molcajete.
They held their breaths, slicing into the riper avocado. They had had such bad luck before, with uneven ripening and spoilage. But this time, it was different. Butter-soft flesh and a luminous yellow-green inside. Perfect.
The boy bruised onions in the molcajete. He tossed in the tiniest green chilies, which his little brother had stuffed into his pockets from a picnic-trip to a local farm, though he’d not dream of eating one himself–also for his mother. Then came the avocado, rich and melting. Salt. Lime juice. When the second half of the avocado followed, the older boy decided not to mash it to a paste, but leave it chunky. Together, the brothers laughed, licked their fingers and the molcajete, reveled in the awesomeness of the perfect avocado, and were full of happiness.
As a fajita dinner materialized around this single, wondrous fruit, the mother wondered if it wasn’t she who had got it all wrong. She had always assumed that the life she lived, positioned around dark flat-screens that acted like tunnels into any universe but this one, not-gardening, not-foraging, not-adventuring, had set the wrong example, taught her sons only to value the things that were killing her.
But perhaps, she realized now, the boys understood after all, and valued the things which mattered to her, not just because they mattered to her. And that, more than anything else, was perfect.
The next day, they were braver with the second avocado. It was softening, but not blackening. When it was time for chicken tortilla soup, the mother asked the boy: shall we risk it? They only had one Sunday. So they cut the avocado when he assented.
Together they mixed masa harina, carted across the seven seas, and filled the house with the smells of fresh corn tortillas.
“You got the flour from Houston?” the boy asked, eyebrows raised.
“Yes,” replied his mother, looking at her husband: “I know it’s not exactly sustainable.”
“No,” said the father, “but very enjoyable while its there.” The boy grinned.
And that it was, a rare treasure from far away.
Music from old Hindi movies filled their Sunday morning, alongside the warm redolence of chipotle and garlic. They remembered lives they’d never had, and the lives that they had once enjoyed. They remembered what they missed about Houston, and what they’d found in Pondicherry. The tortilla soup came together with creamy yogurt on top instead of sour cream and beans that were not-quite-pinto and photographs too rushed and not staged.
But when the second avocado got sliced in, buttersoft chunks still holding form, they knew for sure that it was perfect. They’d not have it any other way.
The Perfect Guacamole
This takes nothing more or less than
1-2 buttersoft, ripe avocados
2 shallots, diced
1 small green chilie, finely minced
Lime juice and salt to taste
chopped coriander leaves to garnish
Mash all the above together till you have your desired consistency. Enjoy.