by: Cassandra Warren
I know it’s common knowledge that smells and tastes can bring memories flooding forward, but I’m in awe every time this happens to me. I’m amazed at what the body/mind can do when associations are made from neurons firing off at different sections of my brain, and then re-connecting to take me to a familiar place in time. For example, when I smell Timberwolf wintergreen, my mind and body are transported to my 16-year-old self, lying hot on a plaid couch in a low-lit basement, stomach turning and blood racing as two bodies explore each other. But, don’t fret I’m not going to give you a recipe for dip. I want to talk about the memories that rush over me when I eat avocados, specifically guacamole. This story starts in the Netherlands, in a city you might have heard of, Amsterdam.
When I moved there I didn’t know anyone, and by chance I came to know some of the most amazing people of my life. Something strange happens when you move somewhere totally different, without knowing anyone or anything, and don’t speak the native language or completely understand the cultural norms. There are certain freedoms that come along with people not knowing who you are, like starting with a clean slate: people don’t know a single thing about you, your family, your friends, hell, most people didn’t even know Kentucky is a state, let alone where to find it on a map. And as you make friends, your new relationships become like mirrors reflecting parts of yourself that you already knew, but often things you did not. And, there are down sides too: feeling like you always have to impress new people you meet, trying not to let on too much that you desperately want at least one contact in your 1990’s flip phone. Where to go out, how to let people know you’re queer, or how to meet genuine people you’d actually like to spend time around. But, like I said, I met the most amazing people.
Most of these people were in the same boat as I was, so to speak: new residents of the city, from an outside country, and they didn’t know anyone either. In essence, we shared the same vulnerabilities. But these relationships were not just founded on the fact that we all shared a common need for friendship, intimacy, acceptance, affection, and comfort. It might have been through these shared desires that we sought each other out and were able to provide the time and energy to build relationships, but it was some other kind of voodoo that we all fit together, like peas in a pod. We were radical thinkers, free spirits, dance freaks, no-bra-wearing, (non)academic, queer, passionate, sexy, exhibitionists who loved guacamole.
We were also broke. We’d make dinners together to save on money and have a bit more to eat; buying heijn wine first and spending the rest on food, or just bringing whatever we had in the fridge and making it work. A staple was always guacamole. You could get avocados super cheap at the Dappermarkt, and someone always had an onion and garlic cloves lying around. Our kitchens were small so it was always friendly quarters when the prepping began: chopping, slicing, dicing, and organizing the cooking schedule (not always enough pots/pans to go around). Windows open, breeze blowing in, tunes blowing out. We’d all throw our coins to whoever had chipped in more money than the rest. I’ve never met a more honest and fair group of people. Once, when there was only one slice of pizza left and we couldn’t figure out how to divide it up so many ways, we passed it around, each taking small bites until it was gone. Dividing up plates was done in the same fashion. Then, we’d sit in a circle on the floor to feast. I’m still amazed at how much guacamole we put away. Astronomical amounts.
And now, all I have to do is think about, eat, or prep avocados and I’m flushed with pleasurable sensations, of little memories—like the way my room looked from the floor or the way those two loved to clean dishes together— flashes of smiles, cute faces and laughs I hope my memory never fails to forget; of nights spent dancing and drinking, evenings spent chatting about relationships, sex, bodies, identities, government, cities, bikes, bands, adventures.
Of course, these conversations sound more philosophical now that I recount them in this fashion, maybe because the talking also occurred more often than not with the drinking and dancing. Or perhaps because we where in a place in life in which some of us were coming out, and our journey together was transformative and crucial to our understanding of ourselves and our identities. Regardless of how interpret it, avocados make me think of my family of choice and how lucky I am to have them. I hope this inspires you to make some gauc with your family or a new friend. Enjoy.
- 6 avocados
- 1 red chili pepper (can use jalapeno pepper if no red chili pepper)
- ½ (or more) large red onion
- 1-2 tomatoes depending on size
- 3 garlic cloves (or more, I love garlic, the more the merrier is what I say)
- 1 lime
- salt & pepper to taste
Feeds 6-10 people depending on how hungry you are or how much gauc you can put away
You want the avocados to be ready to eat, so they should have a nice dark color to them and be soft to the touch. But not too squishy or they are likely bad. Cut the avocados in half and remove the pit, but save at least a couple of them. If you have left overs or enough for a snack in a couple of hours, you can put the pits back in the gauc; this will keep it from turning brown. Once cut and pit removed, squeeze the soft green goodness of the inside into a large bowl, using a spoon to clear it all out.
Next, add the lime. We usually cut it in half and squeezed one half over the avocados. Putting the lime juice in first helps to soften the avocados so it’s easier to mix into a mashed, dipable yumminess. Although, some chunks are good.
Next you chop the veggies (tomatoes, red chili pepper, onion). We always had a team going for the veggie prep, and everyone has their own style of chopping, but we found that we all like the onions and tomatoes to be diced into small squares, and the red chili pepper to be more finely chopped. If you add the tomatoes first it helps to soften the avocados (sometimes they aren’t all as ripe as you want them).
For the garlic, we had a garlic press, and Ikea has a great one for cheap. However, if you don’t have a press, I would smash the clove first (the side of the knife usually works well for this), and then dice it finely. Smashing allows for the juices to be released, giving it more flavor.
Lastly, we’d add salt and pepper to taste. Some times in this tasting process we’d also realize we needed more lime juice; feel free to add more to your own liking.
Serve with tortilla chips. And wine. And dance.