“Did you know that every avocado sold commercially originates from a tree this one dude had in his backyard?”
“…No but I do know that an avocado has more potassium than a banana!”
“But did you know that if you ate 400 bananas you might overdose on Potassium!”
These were the opening lines of Grey’s Anatomy from last week, Season 17, Episode 17. Some people ask me “Grey’s Anatomy is still on?” when I tell them I watch it. Yes, it’s still on and Brock and I watch it together after the boys go to bed each week. We’ve both been watching it every week for nearly 16 years. My girlfriend’s Robyn, Lisa, and I used to get together once a week while I was in college. We would watch shows that we would record on the VCR. Yes, I’m “recorded shows on VHS” old! Grey’s Anatomy, Survivor, American Idol, Will & Grace…etc. It’s crazy these shows are still running on TV! (Will & Grace ended 2020).
Back to avocados…those opening lines got me thinking about how much I love avocados.
Last night was Taco Tuesday in our house. It’s one of the dinner presets that helps me plan our weekly menu. Taco Tuesday, leftover’s on Monday and Wednesday, pizza on Friday. So that leaves three dinners to think up for Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tacos are one of Brock’s favorites and we’ve been making them almost weekly since we’ve been together. There are so many ways to eat tacos. Soft tacos, crispy tacos, nachos, taco salad…I think you get my point without sounding like Forrest Gump ranting about shrimp.
Sometimes I throw chicken in the crockpot and let it cook all-day for shredded chicken tacos. Pork is great that way, too. Marinating a flank steak and some chicken overnight for fajitas also fits the bill for Taco Tuesdays, because once you wrap up that fajita meat into a fresh tortilla it’s basically just a taco! If I say “fajitas are for dinner tonight” to the boys, they are thrown off and reluctant to try something new. But when they’re told it’s just a different variety of taco, then they’re on-board. However, beef tacos are the winner for sure. We love them so much that we cook up 2 pounds of meat when it comes to beef tacos! I also make my own taco seasoning. It’s very easy and a lot cheaper to make yourself than spending around $1 on a prepackaged blend of seasonings (also packed with preservatives!). You likely already have all of the taco seasoning ingredients in your spice collection. Check out my taco seasoning recipe here.
Along with tacos I usually always have guacamole, salsa, corn, Mexican rice, and sometimes beans. Guacamole is one of my all-time favorite dips and is always great with Taco Tuesdays. I remember going to Taco Bueno as a young kid and all my cousins, brother, and friends would always say “no guac” with their “mexi-dip and chips” order. There came a point when I told them to get it and let me eat it! It was so yummy! This was back when Taco Bueno had good, made-fresh daily guacamole. The last time we had Taco Bueno I snarled my nose and frowned with disappointment at how unappealing their guacamole has become.
Over the years I’ve made several versions of guacamole from various recipes. One of my favorite recipes is an adaptation from a cookbook my Nanny gave me several years ago for one of my birthday’s. The cookbook is called ”Cleora`s Kitchens: The Memoir of a Cook and Eight Decades of Great American Food,” by Cleora Butler.
On the inside dust cover it reads….
“The highlight of playing Tulsa was Cleora’s cooking. It was the best food in America.” ~ Cab Calloway.
Cab Calloway was one of America’s great Jazz singers. Haven’t heard of him? He had several hit records in the 1930s and 1940s, and one of his most famous songs was “Minnie the Moocher”. Here’s a video of him performing his famous song in the 1980’s hit movie “The Blues Brothers“. Check it out, the lyrics are fun and I’m sure once you listen to the song you’ll remember his “hi-de-ho” call and respond scat lyrics. (Jazz is one of my favorite genre’s of music, we’ll touch on music one day, when I have an entire week to sit down and write! Music is a big part of who I am and runs through my blood!) Fact of the day…Calloway was the first African American musician to sell a million records from a single.
Back to Cleora, she was born in Waco, Texas in 1901 and moved to Muskogee, Oklahoma with her parents as a child. She learned to cook frontier delicacies from her mother. Their home was a favorite destination for Cab Calloway and other black musicians and entertainers, who often ate in private homes when traveling through the segregated South and Southwest. (source: NPR Hidden Kitchens)
Cleora became a well-known and loved cook. As a live-in cook for Tulsa’s wealthiest oil barons and socially elite in the 1920’s, 30’s, and 40’s, she prepared lavish cocktails and dinner parties. She later opened Cleora’s Bakery and Catering where she cooked through the 80s, catering her last meal in December 1984. During the last years of her life, she gathered her recipes and food memoirs for her book. She died in 1985, just days after her book was complete.
Cleora has an interesting story and I enjoyed reading about cooking during times when it was much simpler, ingredients were fresher – often grown and raised on your own land, and bought food wasn’t boxed in fancy marketing packages laden with enough preservatives and sugar to make it last for years on a grocery store shelf. Each chapter in her cookbook is dedicated to a different decade, starting with the 20’s and ending in the 80’s when she passed away. She talks of cooking before there were electric ranges, food processors, and exotic tidbits from the world over. She reminisces of picking wild fruit in the summers and making her own jams, jellies, and best of all, her Grandmother’s homemade wine (I might have to try with the grapes growing on my vines!). She talks of train rides, collecting fresh chicken eggs, and the various historical struggles through each decade. I love reading and whenever a cookbook can tell an interesting story, I love it even more.
A section from her cookbook reads…
“The first avocado I ever saw was brought from Mexico by my employer, Charles Robertson. Mrs. Robertson and I studied this unusual piece of fruit, and when we cut it open to find the enormous seed inside, we couldn’t decide which was the part to be eaten, the pulp or the seed. Finally we decided we had best wait until Mr. Robertson returned home. He called it an Alligator Pear but, of course, we know it as an avocado…”
Cleora’s Avocado Dressing (from ‘The Twenties’ chapter)
- 1 large avocado
- 2 tbs lime juice
- 1 ½ tbs finely chopped onion
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
- Minced jalapeno pepper to taste
I remember reading the section about Alligator Pears aloud to Brock several years ago, and now every time I see an avocado, I think of her and call them Alligator Pears in the back of my mind.
There’s a running joke between Brock, myself, and a few friends of ours. It was 2018, our 9th Annual Super Bowl party. I was so busy cleaning, prepping food, and taking care of the boys that Brock jumped in and came to my rescue, like he always does when he notices me stressing. He offered to help make the guacamole. I pulled out my trusty go-to recipe and proudly commented how everyone always raves about this particular recipe as I slapped it on the counter in front of him. He went about making the dip and I noticed he wasn’t even looking at my recipe but was improvising his own recipe. I scalded him and he assured me it was going to taste just fine. Our Super Bowl parties had grown over the years and this year was a particularly large crowd. The Philadelphia Eagles were playing the New England Patriots, the Eagles defeated the Patriots, 41-33. Friends from various corners of our lives were all gathered together having a great time. Church friends were commencing with our late-night party friends in the hot-tub. Co-workers and business clients were playing beer-pong and ‘beers-bee’, others were huddled around the 100” TV we had mounted in our outdoor kitchen, while some just hung out inside playing with the kiddos and Roxy in the playroom. While huddled in the kitchen laughing and talking loudly as we usually all do, one of our dear friends Johnathan (JO) started ranting and raving flamboyantly about how awesome the guacamole was and that he had never tasted guacamole so delicious before. He went on and on how he desperately wanted the recipe and was wrangling all the others into the kitchen to taste the famous guacamole. All the while, I noticed that everyone kept glancing over at me to see how I was taking in the scene. It didn’t take me too long to realize what was going on. Brock told JO earlier that he made the guacamole and that I was upset because he didn’t follow my recipe to a “T”…(me a ‘type-A’? NO way, hehe!). They were making a big to-do about Brock’s new haphazard guacamole recipe. Rolling my eyes, I gave in to their shenanigans and started laughing. To this day it’s still an inside joke we share about my “famous guacamole” recipe. I’m going to rename it “Alligator Pear Dip”.
Jenn’s Alligator Pear Dip
- 3 avocados – peeled, pitted, and mashed (be careful to not cut the seed and you can save it to grow a tree!)
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 Roma tomatoes, diced small
- 1 teaspoon fresh minced garlic
- 1/2 finely minced jalapeno pepper (optional)
Mix everything together, store it in the fridge for 1 hour before serving to let the flavors meld together.
A little trick I learned several years ago to make guacamole last longer and not turn brown is to make sure there is no air in the container you are storing it in. I’ve made guacamole the night before and was still perfectly green the next day. Simply place plastic wrap over the guacamole, make sure to press down on the wrap and get all the air and air pockets out, and then cover the dish with the lid. Alternatively, I’ve also just added water to the top of the guacamole before putting a lid on the container. Make sure you really pack the guacamole down so there are no pockets of air that the water can settle into while storing. Guacamole is really best whenever it’s eaten within a day, two days max.