French Friday’s with Dorie
I was unprepared for the blasphemy that Rick was about to utter in my dining room.
Some things should not be said even among friends. It might be ok to think them. I am not in favor of a Culinary Thought Police state but Rich was about to cross the line. We were entertaining some friends in our home, a family of six. We poured the wine freely and crammed around the dining room table for what I thought was going to be a pleasant evening of fancy cocktails, good food and an abundance of non-offensive chit-chat – the kind that even one who loves a good argument now and then might crave on a Friday night when the week has been full.
Our conversation stream stayed on course and did not disappoint. We touched on all the incredibly safe topics: we got briefed on the family vacation that had all six of them (Mom, two daughters and their husbands) traveling the Western United States together in a single RV (kill me now), our predictions for an unseasonably warm summer and the best way to take care of orchids.
For good measure we even discussed our shared love of pets — this is probably the safest dinner conversation topic of them all. All was going very well and soon I couldn’t tell which was relaxing me more, my second glass of Pinot Noir or the nature of our dinner talk.
Everything changed when the conversation took a turn towards that one topic that makes me nervous when I am the one in charge of dinner. Food preferences.
Do we really have to do this now? I haven’t even served dinner yet!
When I say “food preferences” I’m being kind. I’m not referring to the “I prefer jalapeno to Serrano chilies” type of discourse. I’m instead referring to those prepared stump speeches often pop up when we gather and then serve kick the door open for everyone present to share which foods they either can’t, or more truthfully won’t eat.
Please note dear reader that I am not speaking here of those who must speak up because they forgot to tell me that they are allergic to peanuts once they realize that I have themed the entire dinner around Indonesia or Thailand. Doing this is far better than not as rushing a dinner guest to the hospital usually ruins the party.
No, I generally forgive food aversions if they are legitimately related to health. Generally. No dear reader, I’m speaking here of the ‘strong preferences’ that people seem overly proud to cling to although for the life of me I don’t understand how one can feel pride to know a food type has bested them.
I suppose it was a testament to our hospitality that Rick felt comfortable enough to launch into his own rather lengthy list of foods he would not be eating that evening. He was proud enough to rattle off his list without a second thought to that night’s menu. A menu he still had not been presented with.
“I don’t eat anything with lamb in it… or shellfish. Lamb is just too ‘lamby’. I don’t care what kind it is. And shrimp, well, shrimp just gross me out. Do you know they eat anything and do you know what that black stripe actually is? Its shit. Shrimp shit. I tell you we aren’t supposed to eat that. Oh, and I can’t eat anything with a bean in it and that includes lentils. I can’t eat lentils. They just gross me out…”
Rick kept going on but I had already tuned him out. I may have even started humming softly to myself for good measure. He knew me well enough to realize how annoying I find this line of conversation so once I had I mentally assured myself that the evening’s menu did not contain lamb, shellfish, or beans I decided tuning him out would be the best plan of action.
It was better I didn’t know it if he would go on to mention a food I was about to serve to him. It would only get awkward.
After a minute or two of Rick’s holding the table hostage to his lengthy roster of dislikes he shifted his gaze to me and looked at me with an intensity that jarred me from my inner slumber. Then he said it.
“There’s one more thing. I hate avocados.”
I think I may have audibly gasped.
I’m certain I dropped my fork because I heard it clang loudly. The fork fell out of my hand and onto the plate making a tone so cliche that it must have given my dinner guests the impression I did it on purpose and for comedic effect — but I had not.
The laughter gave me permission to seize the moment.
“Rick, get out of my house! Now!”
I stretched out my arm and pointed at the front door. I did not cracking a smile. Given my real annoyance it was surprisingly easy to “stay in character”.
“How very dare you sit at our table, enjoy our hospitality and then disrespect us by uttering such blasphemy! It is bad enough we have to sit here and listen to what happens to your GI tract when you eat a lentil or have you regale us with your story about the time mayonnaise made you vomit but now you are going to admit without any trace of shame that you HATE avocados? Hate? D on’t you know you are in California? This is avocado country sir! That is like going to France and telling them you don’t like cheese. Or telling a Texan you don’t like beef. Hate? What did avocados ever do to you? There just isn’t anything there there that should engender hate. Is there? What? WHAT IS IT?!”
I paused only long enough to take a breath and take a quick pulse of the mood. Where they still laughing?
Then the real horror of what Rick had said dawned on me.
“Do you mean to tell me… Rick… that you don’t eat guacamole? Oh my GOD! How very sad for you Rick! SAD! You actually choose to live in a world without guacamole. Lentils, I can see how one would survive without lentils or even shrimp. But guacamole? That is like living in a world without Cher!”
It seemed the “angrier” I got the more the table roared with laughter. God bless Pinot Noir for so effectively vaccinating me from judgement that evening. How often does one get the chance to speak one’s mind and vent childish frustrations only to have them excused away so willingly and effectively?
I was comedy gold and a petulant brat all at the same time and only I knew the bratty truth.
It was a catharsis I hope you will all get to experience someday.
Still, I wasn’t done. I had I idea. I had planned to serve “Anne LeBlanc’s Pistachio Avocado” from Dorie Greenspan’s “Around My French Table” as our first course! I had previewed it earlier in the week and I thought it would be perfect for the group. I knew Rick was a picky eater but I had not yet been presented with his full aversion list.
Seven of us were fortunate enough to dine on the lovely avocado starter you see before you here. Rick, however, got served a salad plate adorned with only one tablespoon of pistachio oil, a slight dusting of lemon zest and a few crumbles of pistachio bits. Bread was on the table.
The table went nuts and even I had to give in to the moment and laugh.
Some people just don’t know what they are missing. But even they had a lovely ‘sauce’ for dipping.
I urge you to source the finest quality pistachio oil you can. There is a difference in brands and once you have it in your pantry you will fall in love with it's qualities and substitute it in our usual vinaigrette and marinades. Here it steps up and allows its mellow, nutty flavor to lift the avocado subtlety to new heights.
Dorie's original recipe can be found here
This is what you will need:
- 1 Ripe Haas Avocado
- 1 lemon, zested then juiced
- kosher salt or fleur de sel
- the best pistachio oil you can find
- crushed pistachios for garnish
This is how you make it:
- Split your avocado an remove the pit. Lightly brush the avocado with some lemon juice and then fill the pit with at least 1 teaspoon of the juice. Fill the rest of the pit cavity with the oil. Sprinkle with lemon zest, some fleur de del or kosher salt and a crumbling of pistachios.
- If you are Rick, then the avocado is optional. Because you hate it.
If you are Rick, then the avocado is optional. Because you "hate it".