Unit

2

Avocadoin Mexican culture

Foodis an important product in the life of all living things. Foodsupports life by providing the needed energy to support key processesin the body that sustain life. However, food is just about sustaininglife but also a way of life and a celebration of culture. Differentcultures have different types of foods usually grown in theirlocality prepared in different ways and even prepared using differenttools. It is for this reason that food is viewed as an important partof culture that defines a people. Mexican culture as practiced inMexico and by Mexicans all over the world more so in the US, avocadosform a core food ingredient and an important part of the Mexicanculture as this essay intends to portray.

Beforeengaging in discussing avocados and how they are relevant to theMexican food culture, it is important to delve deeper and describeand understand the origins and history of avocados. The fruitoriginated in the Mexican state of Puebla with evidence dating as farback 10,000 B.C having been discovered (Thomson, 2001). The tree,PerseaAmericana,that bears avocado fruits can grow to heights of 80 feet and remainproductive for up to 200 years. The actual fruit can weigh 1-4 poundsand mature trees produce 100-400 fruits per crop. The fruit is alsoknown colloquially as alligator pear probably due to its rough skinand green color when raw similar to an alligator. These fruits oftentimes ripen after harvesting and they may change color from green tobrown or purplish or black after maturation or after ripeningdepending on variety. The fruits can be pear shaped, spherical,knobbed, or egg shaped (Avocados 2014). They have a fleshy outerlayer which is the edible part which can range from light green toegg yellow and a large single near-spherical seed at the center.

Allthe varieties available in Mexico are a major food component. Theyare consumed alone as a fruit or used as an accompaniment oringredient in preparation of other foods. The most popular and mostrecognizable food prepared from avocados is guacamole. Guacamole istype of dip or sauce made primarily of mashed avocado, tomato, chili,and sometimes seasoned with lime juice. Other ingredients such asonions, yoghurt, basil and salt maybe added depending on personaltaste (Tatum, 472). This is not only popular among Mexicans but hasbeen adapted in the US both by Americans both of Mexican andnon-Mexican ethnicity. The avocado fruit flesh is not the only ediblepart of the avocado.

Leavesand skins from one or two varieties are also consumed. Leaves fromthe criollo variety are used in preparing soups and its skin can beconsumed together with the flesh (Tatum, 472). This variety is muchsmaller in size and has a darker shade of brown than the conventionalvarieties. The leaves from these trees are used fresh or toasted toadd flavor to soups, stews, wrapping tamales and in barbacoam. Lighttoasting is done to boost the flavor and aroma (Towell and Vargas42). In some places where the criollo variety is not common, the Hassvariety which has larger and knob shaped fruits cab be used in asimilar manner as criollo for preparing soups from leaves. Thedevelopment of hybrid varieties has increased the use of avocados.Other common varieties include Bacon, Gwen, Pinkerton and Zutano.Some groups of people hold unique beliefs about avocados as acultural food.

Forinstance, during day of the dead celebration, a day set aside toremember the dead, avocados are served as part of a meal to the dead.In this three day celebration, families prepare food for departedmembers and deliver them at their graves. The graves are decoratedwith flowers such as marigold and the favorite food and beverages ofthe departed are served to them in the private and decorated altars.Avocado is served this way in most cases as guacamole. Others beliefthat avocado cannot only appease the dead but also the living in adifferent way.

SomeMexicans believe that avocados have aphrodisiac properties. Thisbelief has been carried on from a long time ago based on the originalnaming of the fruit as ahuacate in Aztec language which directlytranslates to testicles. Historians believe that the Aztec naming ofthe fruit as ‘testicle’ emanates from the similarity of the fruitand the testicle in shape. Today, a significant percentage ofMexicans recommend avocado for its aphrodisiac properties though noscientific evidence has proved it. In fact, the belief in avocados’aphrodisiac properties among ancient Mexicans around 8thCentury BCE was so strong that only men were allowed to harvest thefruit and some men were buried with the seeds of avocado fruit in thebelief that they might need aphrodisiac help in their next life (Yoon2006). With increased information and awareness, today the avocado ismore of nutritional and cultural food than an aphrodisiac.

MoreMexicans recognize the value of avocados as cultural food and anutritional food. There is no evidence in slowing down theconsumption of this fruit. Again, as Mexican food becomesincreasingly popular in the US and other parts of the world, avocadoswill find even better use in the culinary department as they interactwith other cultures.

Workscited

Avocados.2014. 9thDec 2014. Web.

&lthttp://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&ampdbid=5&gt.

Tatum,Charles. Encyclopediaof Latino Culture: From Calaveras to Quinceaneras.New York:

ABC-CLIO. 2013. Print.

Thomson,Michael. HolyGuacamole! A Short History of the Avocado.March 2001. 9thDec

2014.Web. &lthttp://www.mexicofile.com/holyguacamole.htm&gt

Towell,Long and Luis Vargas. FoodCulture in Mexico.New Jersey:GreenwoodPublishing

Group.2005. 41.

Yoon,Howard. What`s in a Name? The Avocado Story. July19, 2006.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5563805

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