When my town started its Saturday farmers’ market in the early spring of 2008, I was so there. That first Saturday morning, as a matter of fact, I think I was almost the only one there: Me, my husband, my oldest child (then about 18 months old, with golden ringlets and big brown eyes), and our little girl curled in utero. We bought something from each of the four vendors who turned up that morning: salad greens here, eggs there, a loaf of bread from one guy, and a pound of deeply frozen ground beef from another. There was another family wandering around with a double stroller, I remember, and we said hello, uncomfortably, like people who’d arrived unfashionably early for a party.
I’ve hardly missed a Saturday morning since then. My family has grown, and our market has grown. There are dozens and dozens of vendors now, selling everything from gooseberries to tutus, and over the years, I’ve bought at least one of almost everything edible. If I can buy it at the market rather than at Kroger, then I buy it at the market. During the past couple of summers, I’ve even bought big boxes of peach “seconds” to peel, slice, and freeze. I stand happily at the kitchen sink with peach juice dripping off my elbows, cutting out the bruised spots, peering out the window at the kids playing in the water hose, smugly congratulating myself the whole time, for somehow having acquired exactly the life I wanted.
It’s a happy life, the life of a locavore…in June, July, August, and September. In February, though, it’s pretty sad, even if you have managed to freeze enough local peaches to get you through the winter. And even now, in early May, the local earth isn’t producing much that’s edible, unless you can live on microgreens, asparagus, and baby onions. (Yes, I know I could do a better job of preserving fresh produce during the summer months so that I’d need to buy less Californian and South American produce during the winter, but there are many things you just can’t preserve. And I don’t have time or space to preserve enough fruits and vegetables for us, anyway.)
Another sad fact of being a true locavore in the middle of the country would be this one: there are no avocados grown here. Ever. (I don’t even think you can grow them the way people grow limes and lemons, in greenhouses and little pots.) And gosh I love avocados. With eggs and on sandwiches, tossed into cold salads and glued into warm grilled cheese, mashed up as guacamole and cubed up as salsa. Avocados were one of my kids’ first foods: few foods that are so nutritionally and calorically dense can easily be cut into chunks and also chewed without teeth. And few foods feel, in the mouth, quite so clean as a perfectly ripe avocado, in that moment before it turns stringy or mushy or begins to bruise at your touch. Avocados, when their skin has turned black but they are still quite firm, may just be perfect in every way.
Here, a perfect avocado joins forces with an equal quantity of chopped acceptable (but not necessarily excellent) grocery store tomatoes, a handful of cilantro, a few chopped scallions, a clove of crushed garlic, 1/4 teaspoon of cumin,a pinch of salt, and about a tablespoon of lime juice. I usually also add a drizzle of olive oil, because…well, why not? Olive oil makes everything taste better, and the Mediterraneans live practically forever.
You could certainly eat this salsa with tortilla chips or grilled chicken. But I use it on my restaurant-style fish, and no one ever complains. Salmon (or trout) and avocado both have a lush, velvety quality, and that makes them great friends.
So, Midwesterners, until your local farmers start bringing in their lovely harvests of corn and tomatoes, green beans and dirty potatoes, treat your family without shame to a perfectly prepared, perfect avocado.