Monica loves avocados.
Monica is one of my sisters, and she is deaf, mute and blind. Because she cannot see, she chooses her foods based on texture, taste and smell. I imagine she likes the bumpy texture of the outside but discards it as edible to get to the fleshy inside. Especially because the inside of an avocado – oh the inside! – is soft, velvety, creamy. It has a mild smell that is inviting, not aggressive. And Monica can’t get enough. The avocado is like a pleasant little surprise of nature: unattractive on the outside, but soft and supple on the inside.
I am a big fan of the avocado, too. For me, the perfect avocado is tender and firm at the same time, subtly sweet and yet almost bland, and smooth without any stringy veins. I can eat it plain, but I also love it in a variety of ways: mashed in guacamole, sliced in sandwiches, chopped in salads, scrambled with eggs and cheese, mixed with mayonnaise in tuna salad, churned into sweet ice cream, and my favorite – a simple, indulgent dessert recipe well-loved by my whole family – topped with condensed milk, then served with sugar, ice cubes and milk. Mmmm.
The avocado is a mighty fruit. True, it is high in calories (a medium-sized avocado has about 275 calories) and high in fat (it is also dubbed as the “butter pear” – and you know anything with the word “butter” has to be rich and fatty). But it is high in monosaturated fats, which are good for the heart. These are the good fats that help raise levels of the good cholesterol (HDL), while lowering levels of the bad cholesterol (LDL). When I started incorporating an avocado (or two) every week into my diet, my cholesterol levels improved. I am amazed that this versatile fruit, which I love because of its creaminess and rich texture – usually traits of unhealthy foods – is actually helping me care for my health.
Whenever I go home to the Philippines, I look forward to the avocados. My parents have an avocado tree in the backyard (avocado trees grow in subtropical climates – they need an environment that does not freeze and with little wind – so the Philippines is perfect). It is majestic, with large, palm-sized, dark green leaves that offer expansive shade to shield us from the sun. My sisters and I love waiting for the fruit to ripen or drop from the tree, then eating them straight from the tree with our favorite recipes. Sometimes, when they fall off the tree but are still rock-hard, we wrap them in newspapers to ripen them. My other sister Patty and I amusingly look at Monica as she checks the avocados everyday for ripeness, eager to make her avocado smoothies. Last year, she bought a big basket of avocados to school to share with her teachers and classmates – she was so proud of the perfect little avocados right from our own yard.
I look at the avocado and see a coarse, unattractive exterior of brownish-green. Then I remember my sister Monica, who has taught me to love the avocado for its gentle, soft and comforting inside. It caresses my palate with its mellow flavor and creamy texture. It is versatile, and it keeps me full, too. If I had to pick a favorite food that appeals to just the senses of touch, taste and smell, I would choose the avocado. The mighty avocado is not just good for my heart; the avocado is close to my heart, too.