The History of Avocados: Pulp-Fictionalized


The beast sinks slowly through a dense patch of trees, its hulking limbs moving in calculated, plodding steps. Its bulbous snout sniffs on the forest floor, taking in the rich aroma of earth after an early morning rain. Mist hangs between the trees as clouds roll through this shaded wood, high up in a prehistoric sierra somewhere around present-day Mexico. The animal lifts up on its hind legs, each as thick as an elephant’s, raising its squat head high up into the trees. It nibbles a few leaves, then drops back down on all fours with enough weight to push its long, bony claws deep into the ground. The leaves are a pleasant snack, but not what it seeks. It continues on, sniffing, searching for something in particular—a very special, very peculiar fruit its kind has been eating for longer than history can remember.

Sarah Maiden / Serious Eats

A breeze blows and the beast catches a scent, ripe and herbal. It moves towards the smell, then comes upon the treasure: large, dark-green, egg-like forms on the forest floor, dropped by the tree some days before at their peak of maturity. Since then, the fruits have ripened further, the firm, waxy flesh melting into a silky, buttery mass.

The fruit is an ancient one, from an ancient tree, among the first ever to flower and fruit. It’s an odd one too, different from the rest. Instead of the sweetness of sugar offered by most other fruit on Earth, this reptilian-skinned orb offers itself via the caloric payload of ample fat, an energy powerhouse that’s long-lasting and deeply satisfying. It also has an unusually large seed, a curious characteristic given the whole purpose of an edible fruit is to have the seed be digested by an animal and deposited elsewhere.

With an eager tongue darting in and out, the beast gobbles up its bounty, rapidly chomping and swallowing the baseball-size fruits with golf ball-size pits large enough to choke a direwolf, one after the next as if they were mere grapes.

This is a special relationship that has formed between this very specific beast and this lone fruit over hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—of years of coevolution.

This is a special relationship that has formed between this very specific beast and this lone fruit over hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—of years of coevolution. The beast, one of the long-extinct mammalian megafauna that proliferated across the Earth after the dinosaurs ceded their reign, is large enough to eat and digest the entirety of this weird, otherworldly fruit despite its overgrown seed, making it possible to spread the seed after it passes through its digestive system. The fruit is an outlier among outliers, its survival totally reliable on this gentle and massive creature to spread and propagate its seed.

The fruit is eternally dependent on the beast, the beast is endlessly sustained by the fruit. But a chill wind blows, colder than most and carrying with it a warning of changes to come.

Chapter 1: The Arrivals

Serious Eats / Sarah Maiden

It’s midday and the band of humans stop to rest and drink. They’ve been on the move for months, traveling gradually south as they seek warmer weather and more plentiful sources of food to eat. It wasn’t long before that they were still marching through the ice, torn in heavy mammoth skins, their own skin chapped and blistered anywhere the raw, freezing wind and sleep could reach. In the cold, they had lost their great elder, and a baby had arrived. Now the baby is walking and the sun cuts through the trees as they climb higher into more comfortable mountain water.

A few members of the band stretch out on the ground to rest while others gnaw on dried giant bear meat, a kill that has yielded weeks of food for the pack of fourteen nomads. Two others crouched at a nearby stream, filling empty waterskins with ice-melt until they were heavy and swollen. The baby toddlers around, peeking at her family from behind the trees and climbing on small rocks. She spies a tree full of funny fruit and traipses over to it.

Suddenly there’s a wild grunt and the baby cries. At once all are up and racing towards the sounds. It’s a blur as the beast’s rears, its gnarled claws illuminated in a beam of sunlight. A spear slices the air and splits the giant’s throat, cutting it down in a ragged heap. The baby is safe, the misunderstood monster dead, and at its feet an alien fruit, unlike anything they’ve seen before.

Chapter 2: Anthro-Supremacy

Sarah Maiden / Serious Eats

Thousands of years have passed. The humans have conquered this land and stitched it together into a network of farming villages and cities. The beasts are gone, continuously pressed into extinction by hunters and a changing climate. The ice that had descended from the north is gone too. But the bizarre fruit not only remains, it has spread in the hands of the humans, who have now taken over the task of carefully tending to its trees. It is now growing in many parts of North, Central, and South America, and the West Indies, split into dozens upon dozens of varieties and eaten in countless ways.

The fruit will take many names—āhuacatl in Nahuatl will one day become avocado in Spanish, then avocado in English. People will eat it blended into sauces and shakes, smashed into dips, and spread on a trillion twee toasts, digitized trillions of times more as social media uploads and impressions. Most of them will never spend much time at all thinking of this odd, fatty fruit and the singular story that must have born it. Few will wonder why the pits are so large, or dare to imagine what kind of colossal creature was once able to swallow them whole.

We don’t give thanks to that beast whose biology helped create the avocado, its contribution is lost to time. The animal was a victim of its overgrown frame, the same one that allowed it to swallow whole avocados so that they could spread and thrive.

How to Store and Ripen Your Avocados

Cutting into under- or over-ripped avocados at the precise moment you most need perfectly ripe ones is a rite of passage, the most universal and frustrating human common denominator. But—wait for it—it doesn’t have to be. Here’s our guide to what you need to know about storing avocados to ensure timely ripeness, followed by our tips on how to speed up the process.

Breakfast Recipes

Avocado Smoothies

This ultra-creamy avocado smoothie gets its sweet, tangy flavor from frozen mangoes, orange juice and a ripe banana.

The primary flavors come from the orange juice, mango, and banana, which together provide a pleasant sweet-tart balance. The banana also adds fiber and body to the shake, which is improved even further by the rich silkiness of the avocado.

Eggs Baked in Avocado

The runny yolk surrounded by creamy, tender avocado is a true game changer.

The texture of the avocado is not really altered by a quick 10 minutes in the oven. Garnish with whole grain mustard and chopped chives, and you have a new take on brunch that will be a crowd pleaser. As an added bonus, any leftovers are great on top of a tart salad for a quick lunch the next day.

Lunch Recipes

Chicken Salad With Avocado, Corn, and Miso Dressing

Mix up your classic chicken salad with this summery variation made with sweet corn, avocado, and the juiciest poached chicken tossed with a light and creamy miso dressing. Cooking the chicken sous-vide allows you to cook it to a lower temperature than traditional methods, guaranteeing moist meat while maintaining food safety standards.

Tofu and Kale Salad With Avocado, Grapefruit, and Miso-Tahini Dressing

The base of this salad is great no matter what you do with it mainly because it has to do with the texture of those three main ingredients. Crisp tofu, creamy avocado, and juicy grapefruit.

Add some chopped raw kale and chickpeas? Delicious. Add a splash of fish sauce (for a non-vegan version) and some toasted pita bread croutons? Fantastic.

Dinner and Dessert Recipes

Avocado Fries

Crunchy with golden brown panko on the outside and buttery inside, avocado fries are a low-effort, high-reward snack that comes together in less than 30 minutes.

Tossing the panko with olive oil results in a crisper coating for the avocado fries. Using ripe but slightly firm avocados makes it easier to dip and coat the fries.

Classic Guacamole

Properly handling the avocados and flavorings yields the most flavorful guacamole with the best texture. Pounding (or processing) the aromatics with salt into a paste results in a finished guac that’s noticeably more flavorful.

Mashing the avocados in a molcajete or with a whisk produces the ideal chunky texture.

Vegan Chickpea Cakes With Mashed Avocado

These vegan falafel-esque patties made with chickpeas and bulgur wheat have a crunchy breadcrumb and are served with mashed avocado for a rich and creamy texture.

A bit of mashed avocado adds brightness, richness, and creamy texture to the mix, while a nice mixed green salad rounds it all out.

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

The secret to ultra-creamy and velvety smooth vegan chocolate mousse? Ripe avocados.

The avocados work so well because they manage to stand in for both the meringue, which makes the dessert just light enough, and the mixture of yolks, melted chocolate, and cream, which lends traditional mousse its rich flavor and texture.

Vegan Avocado Lime Ice Cream Recipe

Buttery avocados brightened with lime make for smooth, creamy, dairy-free ice cream.

Add lime juice in small increments to taste—too little and the ice cream turns out bland, too much and it becomes overly savory.

The Molcajete We Love for Guacamole

This traditional Mexican mortar and pestle is often faked with concrete instead of the lava stone it should be made from, but this one’s the real deal—and perfect for your next batch of guac.

Art Credits

Header Image Design by Sarah Maiden

Graphics by Amanda Suarez

Source Images: in Bgd/Wikimedia Creative Commons; THEPALMER / Getty Images; microman6 / Getty Images; duncan1890 / Getty Images; CSA Images / Getty Images