When I think of California I think of avocados. The purple skin cut open reveals green and yellow fat to squish my fingers between. I can find them at the Food Maxx on Sebastopol Road in Santa Rosa for 49 cents each.
I imagine the tree where they grow somewhere nearby, and the avocados bring me back to my previous home:
Windy city Kutaisi, the Republic of Georgia, where sidewalks house toothless tanned venders selling cheap cologne and threadbare socks, the familiar Romani man with his legless son in the wheel chair is begging for change and the bus drops me off at the curb where a busty fat lady sells shoes to young village mothers.
As I walk along, the wind whips my blonde hair in the air and every eye is on my pale complexion, my tall stature, and my American eyes looking straight ahead.
And then I see the mandarin stand and I feel slightly more at peace.
I check my pockets to find a Lari coin which will buy me a whole kilo of the sinful orange suns that were probably brought to that very sidewalk from a farm less than 100 km away. I purchase them happily and chat in broken Georgian with the vender.
“Saidan xar?” He asks cheerfully.
“Where are you from?”
“Americidan,” I reply for the 1000th time.
Without doing anything out of the ordinary, he states,
“kai gogo xar” with a thick village accent, which roughly translates to,
“you are a good girl.”
Even though it shouldn’t, I still feel great about myself for fulfilling my role as a good American girl. It’s better than the time I was approached on the side walk in Kutaisi by an older man while I was smoking my cigarette. He kept pointing to the sky and saying something about God. I gathered that he was telling me it was very bad for my spiritual health to be smoking because God doesn’t like girls who smoke. (It’s doubtful that he would share the same concern with all his male friends who smoke.)
Anyway, I continue on my way feeling the extra weight of mandarins in my backpack, ready to take on the country now equipped with the comforting glowing fruit…
Back in FoodMaxx I imagine that the avocados were grown locally just as I knew that the mandarins were grown in Georgia.
I hope the avocados were plucked by tanned Mexican hands and brought to the grocery store in a van.
That’s why I love the avocado. I have a clear image of their story. Hispanic hands picked the avocados from the trees and Hispanic hands take them home to eat from the grocery store all within the same area and I don’t even feel bad that I am a white skinned scavenger coming to the Food Maxx to borrow bits of their culture: their smiles, their familial bond, their Spanish words, and their Mexican grown food that all creates a sense of community that I feel is lacking within my own American culture.
Food is such a part of culture and I feel like I have to basically steal it from my Hispanic neighbors! I miss the simplicity of eating in Georgia. All the food was local. Can America ever recapture our culture in our food? Will locally grown food be forever part of the communal hippy populations that also feel exclusive?
Let’s figure out how to work for all Americans to eat local and have more transparency in the story of food.
Just some thoughts.
Foodmaxx photo from http://www.yelp.com/biz/foodmaxx-san-jose