Salvador Dalí and 19th-Century San Franciscans Were Eating Avocado Toast Long Before It Was A 'Thing'

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iStock

Since the avocado toast trend blew up a few years back, many have tried to trace its sudden, lightly-seasoned rise. In its modern form—topped with chic salts, drizzled with oil, and allegedly crippling the Millennial housing market with its exorbitant price tag—people seem to agree avocado toast first hit our collective Instagram feed as a verified craze about five years ago.

The concept of serving avocado on bread, however, is actually nothing new. Sure, 2013 was the year high-end domestic trendsetter Gwyneth Paltrow included a recipe for the dish in her cookbook It's All Good and foodies ran with it, but the tasty combination has been around in some iteration in different corners of the world for more than a century.

The avocado toast at New York City's Café Gitane.
The avocado toast at New York City's Café Gitane.
cherrypatter, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Many credit the Australians with bringing avocado toast to U.S. eateries. New York City's Cafe Gitane, helmed by an Australian chef, first featured it on their menu sometime between 2000 and 2005, though it had been served at a restaurant in Sydney as far back as 1993.

Generally, that's the point where the toast's current ubiquitousness on restaurant menus seems to have taken off. Before then, it wasn't necessarily something one ordered at brunch (or at any variety of chain coffee shops), but it had its place. Cafe Gitane's chef Chloe Osborne told Broadly that she remembers eating avocado toast (and it being considered, even back then, "expensive" and "exotic") as a child in Australia in the mid-1970s. That history's author also cites her own mother consuming a variation on the dish around the same time in Southern California. In fact, California looks to have had the longest documented love affair with bread slathered in the green stuff.

The relationship makes sense when you consider how the States fell for the avocado in the first place. The fruit (yes, avocado is a fruit) arrived from its native Mexico in 1833. Anyone who's ever waited for those bumpy ovoids to ripen—only to toss them for turning to mush far too quickly—can tell you avocados are a delicate sort of food. Because of that, they were only available in warm-weather locations like Florida and California. In 1914, the American market was dealt a harsh blow: Mexican avocados, which were deemed pest-magnets, were banned as an import to the United States. California became the biggest producer of avocados in the country, and the Mexican import ban remained in place for more than 80 years.

However, against the wishes of many American avocado growers, the ban was lifted in 1997 (though it remained in effect in California, Florida, and Hawaii for another decade). So, to any Americans living in the Midwest or northern coastal states, the sudden trendiness of the food could be easily explained by economics—the supply simply spiked, and availability made the "exotic" food far more accessible.

In balmy California, where the avocado train never slowed once it arrived in the late 19th century, documented proof of avocado toast (or something like it) dates back to at least 1885. A 1931 column in the Los Angeles Times, for instance, referenced ritzy women enjoying avocado on toast during "delightful luncheons" at the Clark Hotel. Even earlier, the San Francisco Chronicle printed a recipe for avocado mashed and "spread thickly on toast or between two slices of thin bread" in 1927.

Four types of avocado toast.
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But perhaps the earliest example of avocado toast appeared in a November 1885 issue of San Francisco's Daily Alta California. "Avocado pears, commonly called 'Alligator,' are delicious for breakfast or lunch," it read. "Quarter them, and remove the pulp with a silver knife; spread it on slices of bread, and season with salt and pepper to taste."

Whether newspaper and cookbook shout-outs through the years are enough to qualify avocado toast as having had a previous Golden Age remains to be seen. But people were clearly eating and talking about it in the pre-social media era. Spanish artist Salvador Dalí even gave the stuff his surreal stamp of approval. When Dalí's 1973 cookbook Les Diners de Gala was reissued in 2016, people noted it included an avocado toast recipe, albeit a strange one. Dalí liked his toast topped with almonds, tequila, and lamb brains. If only he'd had Instagram back then.

How to Make Queen Elizabeth’s Beloved Chocolate Biscuit Cake at Home

Queen Elizabeth II at an afternoon tea event in 1999.
Queen Elizabeth II at an afternoon tea event in 1999.
Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

Between living in regal palaces and owning all the dolphins in the UK, Queen Elizabeth II is not like the rest of us in most ways. But there is one thing that many of us do have in common with her: a weakness for chocolate cake. Back in 2017, former royal chef Darren McGrady shared that the queen is especially partial to a certain chocolate biscuit cake that he served each day for afternoon tea.

"The chocolate biscuit cake is the only cake that goes back again and again and again, every day until it's all gone," McGrady told RecipesPlus. "She'll take a small slice every day until eventually there is only one tiny piece, but you have to send that up; she wants to finish the whole of that cake."

If the queen relocated from Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle before she made it to the last slice, McGrady brought the leftover cake with him by train. Wishing you could sample the royal dessert yourself? If you’re willing to spend a little time in the kitchen, you can: The full recipe is available on McGrady’s website.

For novice bakers picturing something decadent and complicated, don’t worry—the recipe is refreshingly simple, calling only for sugar, butter, dark chocolate, one egg, and rich tea biscuits or other sweet, hard cookies. Essentially, all you have to do is crumble the biscuits into small chunks, melt the dark chocolate, combine all the ingredients in a certain order, and let the cake chill in a pan in the refrigerator for a few hours. Then, you use additional melted dark chocolate as frosting.

Step-by-step instructions and ingredient amounts can be found here. And if you’re a little wary about using a raw egg in a no-bake cake, here’s a similar recipe that calls for whipping cream instead.

[h/t The Royal Chef]

To Avoid Grocery Shopping, Quarantined Americans Are Reviving Wartime-Era Victory Gardens

Zbynek Pospisil/iStock via Getty Images
Zbynek Pospisil/iStock via Getty Images

For many people practicing social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the supermarket is the one place where it's practically impossible to avoid crowds. When they do brave the stores, shoppers may struggle to find what they're looking for, with panic buyers clearing shelves of everything from pasta to produce. Though the circumstances are different, citizens across the country are responding to the novel coronavirus outbreak by reviving a trend from the First and Second World Wars. As The New York Times reports, victory gardens are making a comeback.

Victory gardens started in 1917 as a way to supplement the commercial farming disrupted by World War I. As farmers became soldiers and farms became battlefields in Europe, the U.S. agricultural industry suddenly found itself responsible for feeding its own citizens as well as its allies abroad. Encouraging people to plant crops in any available space they could find—including rooftops, parks, backyards, empty lots, and fire escapes—was a way to lighten the burden.

The U.S. government formed the National War Garden Commission weeks before joining the war. Over the next couple of years, pamphlets were distributed to citizens showing them which seeds to plant and how to protect them from pests and diseases. One booklet read “The War Garden of 1918 must become the Victory Garden of 1919.”

Thanks to the effort, 3 million new gardens were cultivated in America in 1917 and 5.2 million appeared in 1918. The initiative resurfaced during World War II, and again, it was a huge success. At its peak, home and community gardens were producing nearly 40 percent of all fresh vegetables in the country.

For more than 70 years, victory gardens only existed as a footnote in history books, but now, they're seeing a resurgence. The U.S. isn't at war, and as of now there's no risk of the country running out of food, but the chaos and fear surrounding trips to the grocery stores are inspiring many people to turn to their own backyards. As many industries are struggling, seed companies are seeing a spike in business. Organizations dedicated to gardening are also seeing the trends. Soul Fire Farm in upstate New York normally builds about 10 community gardens outside homes, schools, and churches a year. But since the start of the novel coronavirus crisis, they've received 50 requests for community gardens.

A home garden is only useful in times of national hardship if it actually produces something. If you're interested in building a sustainable home garden and limiting your trips to the supermarket, here are some easy plants to start with and gardening mistakes to avoid.

[h/t The New York Times]

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