Flash in the Pan: Avocado toast

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Avocado toast is a provocative dish. That piece of warm bread loaded with a smooth green paste is also loaded with so much meaning and angst, and has become a battleground for many of today’s culture wars.

This simple meal has become a proxy for annoying hipsters lingering over brunch in coffee shops. It’s been implicated as the reason millennials can’t seem to scrape together enough money for a downpayment on a house. The UK tabloid The Express, in an effort to make a dig at Princess Meghan Markle, threw all avocado eaters under the bus along with her, in 2019 for having the gall to eat one smeared on toast.

“The pregnant Duchess of Sussex and so-called ‘avocado on toast whisperer’ is wolfing down a fruit linked to water shortages, illegal deforestation and all round general environmental devastation.”

The same paper, it should be mentioned, gave fawning coverage to a pregnant Kate receiving avocados from a fan, with no mention of the pitfalls of that greasy green berry. Altogether there is much drama being made over a piece of bread smeared with avocado. Nobody gets their knickers in a bunch when some fool rubs a piece of toast with margarine.

But if you look past the distractions and the deliciousness, there is in fact a dark side of avocados, precisely along the lines of what The Express pinned on the dark princess.

The boom in avocado consumption has indeed caused deforestation in many places, as land is cleared for more orchards. In Colombia, many beekeepers suspect chemical drift from avocado orchards on an epidemic of bee deaths. Such chemicals may not penetrate the avocado’s thick skin and taint the interior, but they can poison the workers and their villages, which are often close to the orchards, as well as the local ecosystems. In Mexico, which is thought to be the birthplace of avocados, new orchards, some of them illegal, are threatening the mountaintop winter habitat of the monarch butterflies.

One compromise between enjoying that creamy, antioxidant-rich treat and protecting the Earth and its inhabitants is to buy organic and fair trade avocados. They may not be any more nutritious or safe for the consumer, but paying extra for properly produced fruit helps create better wages, safer working conditions and a clean environment for avocado workers and their communities. And if you think organic avocados are expensive, have you perhaps noticed the price of a slice of (probably not organic or fair trade) avocado toast at the local cafe? Compared to that, making some guilt-free avocado toast at home can be a relative bargain.

I brought home a massive Mexican organic avocado from my local supermarket. It cost me three bucks, made four luxurious pieces of toast and fully satisfied two avocado-loving fools.

Avocado Toasties

When I make avocado toast, I start with a simple base and add toppings. Like a piece of toast with butter, it’s a great snack by itself but also a jumping-off point for many different places. Here I’ll give two serving ideas, one based on a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich, and the other inspired by the lobster rolls of my East Coast youth. These will get you started on your own personal journey to avocado awesomeness.

Basic Avo Toast

The lemon juice adds flavor, of course, but also keeps the avocado bright green, where it would otherwise quickly turn brown. That, and a little salt, are the only necessary additions to the avocado and bread.

An organic avocado, average size

Slices of bread (white, ideally sourdough, for the purposes of today’s recipes)

2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt

Cut open the avocado and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Add the lemon juice and salt, and mash it together. Smear it on toast.

Lobster and Avocado Toast

In this dish the avocado does the job of butter in a traditional lobster roll. I’ve been purchasing these packages of imitation lobster meat at the store, similar to the fake crab in California Rolls that’s made of processed pollock and other white fish. But the fake lobster meat has a bit of natural lobster flavor that makes it taste impressively like the real deal.

1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup fake lobster or crab meat pieces (or use the real stuff, big spender)
1 tablespoon minced celery
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 slice avocado toast, preferably made with a hot dog bun

Heat the butter and garlic on medium. Add the lobster meat and saute until it’s warm. Turn off the heat, stir in the celery and onion and heap the mixture onto the slab of avocado toast.

BLT

Here, the avocado does the job normally done by mayonnaise. If we acknowledge the onion and avocado in this open-faced sandwich, we can rename it the BLOAT, which is appropriate given how filling it is.

2 strips crispy bacon
Tomato slices, as needed
1 large lettuce leaf, chopped
A thin slice of onion
1 slab avocado toast

Add the bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion to a piece of avocado toast.

Flash in the Pan is food writer Ari LeVaux’s weekly recipe column. It runs in about 100 newspapers nationwide, nourishing food sections large and small with complete protein for the belly brain.

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