OK, so you went to the neighbor’s Grand Ol’ Oscar Party Spectacular 2014. You swooned over Matthew Macanaughty and retweeted Ellen’s famous pic and tried not to cry– yet again– when hearing Let It Go— yet again. But the real question (after settling the money from the Oscar pool) you should be asking is: What the hell did they do to that guacamole?
Not that you didn’t eat it, or course. Guacamole is like sex– even when it’s done horribly wrong it’s still pretty good and no one’s going to turn it down. (Also? If you have to pay extra for it, the amount is going to be disappointingly small while also being horribly expensive.) So a flicker of incredulity passed over your face as you raised a chip with faux-camole, then you did an internal “meh” kind of shrug and finished that chip with six others in rapid succession.
For some reason, people insist on making guacamole terribly, terribly, wrong. My personal theory is that these same people are using recipes that have been passed down as “guacamole” from moms, Martha Stewarts, magazine adverts, or the like, without realizing that these recipes were developed with the aesthetics, palette, or even just basic economics of the 60s and 70s. See also the reasons why you still like Hamburger Helper as a Thursday night ritual. Yes, it may be comfortable and familiar, but no. Just stop doing that.
In reverse order of severity, here’s how you can spot such guaca-NO-le:
5. Guacamole seed
If you’ve been following food blogs even semi-regularly, you may have noticed this as a trend that swept through the blogosphere– the report that, in fact, the guacamole seed does NOT prevent your lovely green dip from turning brown. Instead, it takes up valuable space in your bowl, space that could be served to allow better dippage of your chip or access by your teaspoon. It ends up blocking the last precious scrapes of your appetizer, and it’s all you can do to prevent someone from taking the seed directly in hand and licking the remnants of guacamole while simultaneously shedding the last remnants of his/her dignity.
The enemy, really, is the oxidation that occurs from exposure to air. So really just keep a spatula handy, and tidy up the surface area semi-regularly instead of letting it remain ugly and sprawled around like a kids’ diorama of the Beach of Normandy. Alternatively, divide the batch of guacamole you made into a few smaller containers before the party, keeping plastic wrap tapped down close to the surface area until ready to replace the empties. Yes, it’s a little more work, but think how satisfying it will be to always have a popping-fresh green spread at just the right moment, and how smugly smart you can seem when you explain how the seed has always been just a myth anyway.
4. Garlic Powder
If you have a choice between fresh garlic and garlic powder, why oh why would you ever pick garlic powder? Especially when that jar of powder has been sitting on the shelf for months now. I mean, it’s not as far down the shelf as the marjoram, obviously, but unless you’ve just pulled back that foil seal from under the cap in the last ten seconds, you’re working with dated, impotent, powder.
So what happens? To get the same punch of flavor, you end up overcompensating and giving a few extra shakes as you stir everything together, and what should be smooth, creamy guacamole ends up bespeckled, begrainy, and begranulated. The same here goes for trying to substitute freshly diced onions with onion powder or even cilantro with coriander powder. And you are using a salt grinder with sea salt, right? That iodized stuff is fine for lesser foods, but this is guacamole we’re talking about here.
To be a better person in general, purchase small labels you can place on the tops of your spice jars. Label each with the date when you open it, and one you realize it’s been a few months, purchase a new one. It shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive to add a replacement spice to your grocery list every couple of months, and it gives you incentive to use them creatively in the meantime when you notice the date, not to mention it keeps your food spicy and flavorful with continually refreshed ingredients.
3. Salsa/Picante Sauce
This is one step up from the garlic-powder-as-replacement-for-actual-garlic problem. Someone got it into their mind that “salsa” contains many separate ingredients you’d add to guacamole, but conveniently pre-mingled together. So, hey, why not just add the salsa entirely, right? In this crime against guac, the perpetrator simply mixes a spoon or two of salsa, typically from an open jar labeled “Pace” or “Fiesta,” with some avocado and calls it guacamole. Right, well, Yankee Doodle tried something similar with a feather and macaroni, and kids have been making fun of him for generations.
The true nature of this crime is that it stems from a misunderstanding of what the guacamole is supposed to be doing. It’s not just a mere condiment that you can mix willy-nilly with its neighbor at the salsa bar. No one is going to mix ketchup and mustard together and still call it “ketchup.” Even Goober has the sense to recognize that a mixture of peanut butter and jelly is a third, separate (and unholy) concoction. You are fundamentally changing the consistency and flavor of guacamole when you do this.
Instead, seek out a recipe that naturally enhances the avocado flavor and texture. Also consider how and why you are putting the guacamole on the menu, anyway. Onion, garlic, lime, and salt is really all you need, especially if it’s to top something like your already flavorful enchiladas and/or quesadillas. I do add cumin to deepen the earthiness and cilantro to brighten the vegetable and also make the other flavors pop, which are important if the guacamole is to stand on its own as a dip. So, yes, adding salsa to the avocado is simple, but any good guacarecipe will be pretty simple in the first place.
Be kind to your hosts when you look over the table’s spread and notice those red intruders dotting the surface of the bright green guacamole. They meant well, and they probably thought that the red and green combination would look very pretty. Can’t you just picture the time it took to dice all those tomatoes, and good lord, think of the mess! Yes, it’s better to just eat the guacamole as fast as you can, to hide all evidence of this shameful faux pas. It’s unfortunate that you would have to experience the guacamole this way, interrupting its natural deep flavor with a useless intrusion of bland tomato. It. Does. Nothing! OK, maybe, if you are lucky, perhaps the with the kind of luck that happens in magical places like enchanted farmers’ markets, the tomato will add a bit of sweetness, but that’s yet again an interruption of what the guacamole should be in the first place. This is, of course, also assuming that the water of the tomato didn’t make the guacamole runny or otherwise ruin its naturally creamy texture. (Could it be that the hosts actually enjoy the interruption of texture like this? Do they also enjoy nuts interrupting their ice cream?!)
The solution here is simple. If the hosts insist on dicing all those tomatoes, then just add the onion, chiles, and cilantro that they’re already using for the guacamole, mixing everything on the side with a bit of olive oil. Viola! They have an additional side of pico de gallo to offer the guests.
1. Sour Cream
What. Are. You. Thinking? Is the flavor of the avocado really too intense that you must dilute it with a flavor of sour milk-fat? Did you not buy enough avocado and must stretch it with something that comes from an entirely different section of the grocery store? Have you always been making it that way because it more closely resembles the mass-produced glop that came in that plastic container in the freezer section?
It’s a new age of Google and Pinterest. You can find many, and more authentic, recipes than even mine. It’s time to expand your palette and deepen your aesthetics. You live no longer in the dimly lit evening of fat and blandness. Embrace the rich and undiluted avocado flavor. Keep whole chunks of them in the guacamole. Put a big dollop on the adobo-spiced beef you’ve taken off the grill, which you’ve spiced just perfectly that the guacamole cools your tongue without erasing the spice at all, but giving it that creamy vegetable flavor without any diary getting in the way.
Ah, but wait. There is one situation more terrible than any one single thing I’ve mentioned, and that’s when all five of these crimes are combined in one, horrifying, unnatural recipe. If you find your friends are offering you guacamole with the avocado seed swimming among the garlic powder, salsa, tomatoes and sour cream, stay strong. Pat your friend silently on the shoulder, without words as you may break into tears if you attempt to speak. Your eyes will say enough. Turn around, and leave slowly as the wind blows alongside you, moaning softly for the innocent avocados that have been lost that day.