An orchard full of fruit, a little audacity and Avocado Soup

I woke up yesterday morning thinking “I’m going to make Avocado Soup today!”  In all the years of eating avocados, I have never made Avocado Soup, so it was with a little excitement that my day commenced – something new!  (You’ve gotta enjoy the little things . . . . ) It was a beautiful day in Alpine, CA.  We worked out in the orchard nurturing the newly planted Pineapple Guava, Key Lime, Pomegranate, and Banana trees.  The already blossoming Orange trees smelled divine.   I took Gypsy for a walk and we did some hard physical labor sifting gravel to improve the main driveway entrance.  Then we went inside to work on relaxing  — an oxymoron, I know – but sometimes during the busiest of times, when the mind has become used to thinking incessantly and the body has become used to going, going, going, it takes a little effort to slow down and relax.  But we did finally spend a few hours doing nothing but sitting. 
As my day progressed and I relaxed, the thought of Avocado Soup simmered in the background and the tapestry of my day became woven with avocado memories . . .
Avocados feature largely in our life.  I don’t think there is a day that goes by that we don’t have some avocado in at least one of our meals.  They are just so good!  I never subscribed to the fear of avocadoes because they are high in fat.  And, I’m happy to report that my instincts about avocados are now fully supported by nutritionists who claim them to have the perfect ration of proteins, good carbohydrates and good fats, not to mention vitamins B6, C, E, and K as well as potassium, lutein and beta carotene.   Some people have said you could live on Avocados alone – I know I probably could, and at one point in life practically did . . .
It was 1983, and I was living with Jay in his frat house  (shhhhh . . . don’t tell . .)  I was a secret stowaway, actually, hidden away in his curtained lofted single bed.  Jay shared his room with another frat member, who tolerated my presence – probably because we studied about 20 hours a day on campus and were rarely there.  The room was located in a wing of the frat house that had some rooms they rented to outsiders, separate from the main house.  It took nearly 6 months for the rest of the frat house to figure out I was actually living there and not just staying over a lot . . . They kicked me out, but I managed to score a room in the Co-operative Housing located directly behind the frat house.  I only ever did stay there for 2 nights . . . but we benefitted from having the Co-op’s dining hall food available to us as well. I would load up a couple of plates of food, hop the fence and cuddle back up in the curtained loft.)
But back to the avocados . . . . Jay’s frat house was located a couple blocks from the UCLA campus.  We had discovered that the old UCLA horticulture garden, was on the same street.  It was hard to find because it was completely fenced in and wildly overgrown.  One day, while walking down the block, Jay noticed a loquat tree – one of his favorite fruits. (We have planted three in our orchard in Alpine!) He clambered up the fence, brought me up as well and we sat there gorging on loquats.  From our vantage point, we could see more of the horticulture garden.  In the middle was a grove of avocado trees.  Hundreds of avocadoes were rotting on the ground and the trees were still full!   We jumped out of the loquat tree into our newly found secret Garden of Eden.  It was an unkempt mess of trees with a single dirt road running through the middle, but oh my gosh, it was paradise for a couple of half starving college kids!  The horticulture garden contained all kinds of fruit trees, all apparently abandoned, or in the least not well taken care of.  Some of the fruit trees were some kind of half-breeds, we never could fully identify (UCLA had opened a new horticulture garden on the other side of campus where most of the current research took place.) But the real score was the avocado grove we had spotted from the loquat tree.  That first day we gathered as many as we could stuff into our pockets and hold while climbing back out of the loquat tree.  As you might imagine, the avocado grove became a regular stomping ground for us, and the source of a significant portion of our college calories and nutrition!  Eventually we brought bags along to carry the fruit out, but still we could only carry so much because we had to climb back out. 
One day, just before Christmas, we came up with the idea that we would gather a couple extra bags of avocados that we could give as Christmas presents for our family in Washington State.  What could be better than a bag full of avocados from California for Christmas?  We knew it would be a hit.  We clambered over the fence, bearing more than our usual number of bags, figuring we’d just get them back over somehow.   We had just finished stuffing four bags full of avocados when we heard a noise.  Uh oh – busted!!  We’d been visiting the grove for months already and had never seen anybody.  But there was no mistake, someone in a truck was headed directly for us.  There we were in plain sight in the middle of the dirt road each carrying two brown grocery bags stuffed to the top with avocados.  Me, being the wimp that I am, immediately pictured myself in jail over Christmas break, but Jay took a different approach.  Instead of running and hiding or begging for mercy, he boldly walked right up to the guy in the truck (the fruit would have just rotted on the ground after all!)  “Excuse me,” he said.  “Would you mind opening the gate? Our hands are full.”  (“Brilliant!” I thought quivering.  “Such audacity!”)  “Sure,” the guy said and headed over to unlock the chained and padlocked gate.  We walked out on the road and through the gate, carrying our gifts, our head’s held high, as if we were two of the three kings, bearing not Frankincense and Myrrh, but . . . avocados.
Alpine’s a bit too cold to grow avocados, although we may try a special hardy variety we’ve heard about.  These days, our secret avocado grove looks remarkably similar to Costco . . . but who can argue with a bagful of avocadoes for $6?  We always have them in the house.  We have avocados with our eggs, avocados in our salad, avocado toast, guacamole and chips. Yum.  But, as I said at the start, we have never had Avocado Soup. 
As the dinner hour approached, I started to look for a recipe. I perused the internet a bit, but since I had been musing about the early days of our relationship, eventually I went for my oldest cookbook, one of a set of three that I got about a year after we were married, all put out by Sunset Magazine, who published about 24 different specialty cookbooks.  In hindsight it is no surprise the three I picked, budding peasant cook that I was: “Cookies (New & Traditional favorites)”,  “Casserole Cookbook (one-dish meals)”, and “Homemade Soups”.  These three cookbooks, published in 1985, are well-loved, dog-eared, and falling apart, particularly Homemade Soups (see picture), but they have served me well!
As I suspected my treasured Sunset Magazine Homemade Soup cookbook did have a recipe for Avocado Soup.  It only called for 5 ingredients, which I had on hand.  My major deviation was that I served it warm instead of chilled.  I learned that trick because I had seen a very similar recipe online for an Ecuadorian version of Avocado soup (http://www.tstastybits.com/2011/09/crema-de-aguacate-ecuadorian-creamy-avocado-soup/), that was identical less the bacon. 
This soup is just yummy – naturally comforting, creamy and delicious!  We had it with cheese quesadillas.  There is lot more that you could add to this soup (some I have noted below), but even if you don’t it is fabulous!  One recipe I saw sounded really good, but it called for several ingredients I didn’t happen to have on hand.  I thought it was worth including down below because it was featured on Good Morning America and was from a book called “10 Things You Should Eat”.  

So here first is the simpler recipe of Avocado Soup that I made (that certainly also qualifies for one of the 10 things you should eat!)
Sunset’s  Recipe                                                Alternatives and Options
2 ripe avocados
(a little more can’t hurt)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
I use lime juice because Jay prefers it
1 clove garlic
About 5 cups chicken broth
Vegetable broth
½ pound bacon, crisply cooked, drained and crumbled
I used Turkey Bacon – this is mostly a condiment and can easily be omitted
1 small red onion, finely chopped
I used a half a sweet onion
Salt  and Pepper                                              (I added some, although the recipe didn’t specifically say to)
Other common additions:
Yoghurt or sour cream
Cilantro
·      Cut avocados into chunks and place in a food processor or blender along with the lemon (lime) juice, garlic, and about 1 cup of the stock;
·      Whirl until smooth. 
·      Transfer avocado mixture to a bowl and blend in remaining stock (about 4 cups) until soup is desired consistency.
·      Add salt and pepper to taste
·      If serving cold – cover and refrigerate until well chilled
·      If serving hot – heat, but do not boil
·      Place bacon and onion in a small serving bowl to sprinkle over individual servings.  Makes about 6 servings.
And a more complicated version From Anahad O’Connor and Dave Liberman’s : “10 Things You Should Eat: Avocado Soup”  (Note:  they do no blend the soup)
Sauté´:
1 large leek
3 Tablespoons olive oil
3 medium celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
Add:
2 bay leaves
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
½ tsp coriander
¼ tsp cumin
1 large ripe, Hass avocado, pitted, peeled, and mashed
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Serve on top:
1 small bunch scallions, finely chopped
1 small bunch cilantro, finely chopped
Just think, if it weren’t for a little audacity, I may have lost my appetite for avocados – what with getting thrown in jail and all.  So be bold – try avocado soup.  Be really bold – try it hot!

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