James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

A Rare Treat From Mexico, in Western India

A Rare Treat From Mexico, in Western India

Avocado shakes in Mapusa

I’m in a tiny tea-shop in Mapusa, Goa, looking for a free table for our team of five women journalists from India, who are covering a women’s football tournament.

The chai shop, with its orange formica table and benches, is full of men with their afternoon tea and deep-fried snacks. The other writers flummox the waiter with orders of strong tea, not milky, a contrast to what most of the customers are having. I’ve never cared much for tea. Today, I’m on a quest to investigate a peculiar green drink that I’ve seen some people drinking. Turns out it is one of this chai shop’s top-selling drinks: an avocado shake.

Originally from Mexico, avocados came to India only in the early 19th century. Also known as butterfruit for their consistency when ripe, they’re grown in some parts of India but are not widely seen or available. When they are, they are frightfully expensive, making it a fruit for the privileged. In this little corner of Goa, though, the drink is an unexpected way for the locals to taste an otherwise inaccessible fruit.

I’ve tasted avocados before, and love them. A former neighbor had a tree that bore abundant fruit, and she generously shared the bounty with our family. Because the fruit is so precious, you need the internet to teach you how to tell a ripe avocado from a raw one, so nothing gets wasted: pull the knob on the top of the fruit: a ripe one will give way easily and the color below will be a solid green.

Waiting for our drinks, the five of us talk about the ‘Discover Football’ tournament and our experiences writing about the sport and its people. The players here are from around India, some urban, but mostly rural girls from very humble homes. Many of them have never heard of avocados before, let alone tasted one.

A parade of white juicers lines a little window in front of the shop and churns out juices and shakes of different kinds. The soft avocado pulp is scooped into the juicer jar and blended with ice, sugar, and milk. Poured into what looks like a beer mug, the shake is a frightful green. Like many so-called nourishing smoothies, it looks worse than it tastes.

There’s a fair bit of sugar in my first one but I can still taste the smoothness of the fruit, just perfectly ripe. The sugar probably cancelled out the avocado’s health benefits, when I return to the little tea-shop I ask them to reduce the sugar, a request they are clearly not used to hearing.

With all the running around we are doing on and off the field for our foray into sports journalism, though, I figure that extra calories are the least of the hurdles that we will face. And with that thought, I raise another green glass to those making it possible for women to challenge stereotypes, get physical, and just have fun.

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