Cooking with Hurricane Irma, Part III: A Tale of Guacamole

The smell of burning diesel alerted me – the bus would be there in a few seconds. With a loud burp, it came to a rubber-losing stop about 10 feet away from I stood. Exiting passengers stumbled down the worn linoleum-covered steps, clutching baskets filled with squawking chickens, small squealing piglets, and sleeping babies wrapped tightly in thread-bare rebozos. Behind me, people started pushing toward the door, eager to board and get on with the rest of their day’s journeys. I handed the driver my coins and plopped into the aisle seat directly behind him, because that seat always afforded the best view of the scenery. And besides, by sitting there, and I am being honest here, I avoided many of the indecencies foisted on young Americanas traveling alone in Mexico.

As the bus bounced back from another pothole, my head snapped sideways from the jolt and I glanced across the aisle. An old Indian man, dressed in the white pajamas-like clothing of a peasant, a woven straw hat pulled down over his wrinkled forehead, slowly opened the string bag he cuddled on his lap. His swollen, work-worn fingers lifted out a packet of crumpled newspaper and he began unwrapping what was inside. A large burrito, filled with bright-green guacamole, the color of the new leaves of spring. He pulled at the paper and began eating, in slow motion, obviously relishing every mouthful. Saliva pooled at the back of my throat and I swallowed as I watched, with the same instinct as watching someone yawn, and then you yawn, too, you know.  It was one of those searing moments that scars your brain with unforgettable memories.

Guacamole. Ubiquitous now. Boring even.

But every time I make it, eat it, or see it, in my mind that old Indian man returns to life again. I wonder what his story was. I wish I’d asked him.


Makes about 3 cups

3 large Haas avocados, peeled and seed removed

1 clove garlic, peeled and grated finely

1 t. salt, or to taste

1/4 t. toasted ground cumin, or to taste

Juice of one lemon, more or less

Hot pepper of your choice, seeded and deveined, to taste

1 medium tomato, seeds removed, and chopped finely

4 T. (1/4 cup) fresh cilantro, chopped

Tortilla chips, preferably made from a stack of corn tortillas that you’ve fried yourself

Mash avocados roughly in a large stainless steel or glass bowl. Add garlic, salt, cumin, lemon juice, hot pepper. Mix well, but leave the avocado somewhat chunky.  Gently stir in the remaining ingredients, except for the tortilla chips. Taste and adjust flavors if necessary. Serve!

© 2017 C. Bertelsen