He came home to a dark flat. He paused at the threshold for a moment, straining to hear sounds of the television, of her laughter at said television, of any signs of life. He could hear the electronic wheeze of the 31-Muni opening its doors at the corner of the street. He could hear the washing machine running in the upstairs apartment. The street lamp cast long shadows through the open windows, silent and animated. There was, however, no other noise inside.
He stepped in, letting the door close behind him as he reached for his phone. He punched play on the voice-mail wondering if he had gotten her message wrong, but there was her voice telling him she’d be going home early. The past two weeks had been filled with busy days and exhausted nights for the both of them. All they had been able to do as they crawled home was stop at the small cafe on the way home. It was open late and made Vietnamese sandwiches, which they would gratefully devour standing in the kitchen at home with paper towels held under to sop up any spills. They were entirely too tired to have dishes to clean. There in that kitchen, the aroma of the smoky vegetables would help blot out some of the tiring day while the layers of avocado provided much needed comfort. At any rate, he was glad that those weeks were now behind them. Any sandwich, no matter how delicious, was tiresome after a third straight night. He preferred home-cooked food anyway, eating out only under duress or because she loved to try new places. He had been looking forward in anticipation to dinner all afternoon.
Her phone began to ring and then went to voice-mail. He left the cursory ‘call me back’ message and them hung up. Another man might have worried but not him. If there was one thing he could count on with his wife, it was her capacity for distraction, and the route between her office and the bus stop offered plenty of that. She would show up soon enough. He did realize that the chances of a home cooked meal were pretty slim unless he would cook it himself.
He took off his shoes, rolled up his sleeves and stepped into the kitchen. Washing his hands at the large stainless steel sink, he cast an eye around, thinking about dinner. There were some oranges and lemons in the basket. Good for additions, but hardly enough to make a meal. Next to them were some tired-looking tomatoes, quite past their first blush of youth. But there was some garlic next to the salt. He rummaged through the pantry cupboard, found a can of whole peeled tomatoes, cast a quick look at the onion bin, and exhaled. He’d found everything he needed for his favourite go-to meal.
He put a pot of water on to boil and set about chopping the onions. As he sliced through the alliums, he felt the strain of the day fading away. Cooking always relaxed him, unlike her. She was always like some sort of a whirling dervish in the kitchen, muttering to herself or singing loudly to her Spotify playlist du jour, throwing ingredients around with abandon . Very different from the way he liked to do things, calm and precise, rarely deviating from a recipe once he got a good handle on something he liked. He marvelled for the umpteenth time how despite all that crazy activity, it was she who walked away with the kitchen clean while it always looked like a hurricane had swept through when he was done. Some day he would have to get to the bottom of that mystery.
With a start, he realized that the onions were done being chopped while he had been daydreaming. Into a heavy pan they went, along with some olive oil and garlic. He let them sizzle away while he opened the can of tomatoes and cut up the sorry uncanned specimen. After a few minutes, they joined the onions in the pan, which he contemplated silently, engulfed by the steam rising from the boiling water and the sizzling vegetables. Today, this needed something extra, perhaps to be found in the warmth of some ginger.
He walked over to the fridge, hoping to find a forgotten knob of it, and stepped back in surprise. There was a large pot in the fridge and on it was a bright orange post-it note with his name on it. He pulled out the pot and uncovered it to find a light green soup inside, verdant and gently redolent even in its cold state. So then, not only had she been home, she had cooked dinner. He looked wistfully at the cold soup and then at the sizzling pan and boiling pot. If only he’d looked in the fridge first. Well, at least he hadn’t put the pasta in the pot yet. He figured that the spaghetti could wait for another day. He’d cook the sauce down and then stash it away.
Just as he was convincing his hungry stomach that he needed to wait for her, he heard the key turn in the lock. It was her, walking in with a baguette for the soup.
Avocado has, for us, been accompanied with minor epiphanies. We ate our first ever avocado when we arrived in the US for grad school in the form of guacamole at a Mexican restaurant. One bite and our eyes opened wide. We were hooked. All that cilantro and onion mixed with its smoothness was reminiscent of the mint and coriander chutneys of home for us deeply homesick students. We bought it home and loved how quickly a bowl of it along with some carrots or some chips could become dinner.
The next time this exquisite greenness caught us off-guard was in San Francisco. We’d been here for a couple of months and my never-ending quest for ice cream found us in front of the wonderful SF institution that is Mitchell’s. Reading through its cavernous menu, one item caught my eye; avocado ice-cream. My head spun a bit. But when I thought about it, it made sense. With its neutral flavour and buttery texture, avocado is perfect for ice cream. I bought a scoop while Amey was still coming to terms with the idea. It was perfectly good ice cream.
Yet the versatility of the avocado had not sunk in. It was truly brought home to me on my trip back to Bombay earlier this year when I tasted a cream of avocado soup. Cue another revelation. The texture of the soup was light and silky, with none of the more heavy overtones of either the guacamole or the ice cream, surprising for a cream-of-anything soup. I was raring to have a go at making this and got the chance when I wanted something home-cooked but was not in the mood for elaborate cooking. This soup is my current favourite. Delicious and lightly creamy with almond milk used in place of any cream, this soup is satisfying and filling without being fog-inducing. It is perfect for any time of year.
- Avocados - 3, ripe
- Almond Milk - 2 cups
- Vegetable stock - 4 cups (or one 32 oz carton)
- Onion - 1/2 of a large, diced
- Garlic - 4 cloves
- Dried oregano - 1/2 tsp
- Dried thyme - 1/2 tsp
- Thai green chillies - 2
- A handful of cilantro, chopped
- Chipotle chilli powder - 1 tsp
- Lemon juice - 2 tbsp
- Honey - 1 tsp
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- - Scoop out the flesh of the avocados. Place in a bowl and add the lemon juice. Toss to coat the avocado halves.
- -Place a stock pot or similar sized thick-bottom pot over medium oil heat. Add olive oil.
- - When the oil shimmers, add the onion, garlic and chillies. Saute till the onion softens and turns lightly golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- - Add the avocados to the pot. Add the cilantro, oregano and thyme, along with the chilli powder and toss to coat all ingredients with the spices.
- - Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Then turn the pot down to a simmer.
- - Using an immersion blender, blend the contents of the pot to puree. Alternatively, you can do this in a blender.
- - Add the almond milk and stir. Bring back to a gentle boil. Add the salt and pepper and the honey. Stir to incorporate.
- - Turn down the heat and simmer for a few minutes before serving.
- - You can use a regular dried chilli powder if you don't have chipotle powder.
- - We added a swirl of creme fraiche to the soup only because we had it. The soup doesn't need it. Serve with some crusty bed to sop up the soup.