MY first encounter with avocado pears came during the general election of 1979 while watching BBC Nationwide with my father. I had never heard of the fruit until this rather well-to-do woman in a large house in Helensburgh was asked who she would vote for come polling day. She replied: “Well it won’t be Labour, because prices have risen to the point I can no longer afford avocado pears for my family.”
I recall my father shouting something uncomplimentary at the television but the memory is so vague the exact form of words escapes me. For several years I laboured under two misconceptions: that avocado pears resembled those big yellow fruit you see in Rupert Bear books, the ones that give you magical powers if you bite into them; and that Margaret Thatcher won the general election by using her contacts in the grocery business to inflate the price of avocados to an artificial high.
There’s a Sicilian proverb that states: a bountiful pear harvest means a shortage of everything else. You can read what you will into that. Speaking of proverbs, and digressing a minute, while shopping in Orgiva yesterday morning I saw a man lead a horse to water and attempt to make it drink. It was a perfect performance of the famous English proverb: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
The horse was tall and white – might even have been a mule – and laden with a huge bundle of grass or hay nearly as large as itself. Its owner led it to a drinking fountain outside the Guardia Civil building on the main plaza, and after taking a long draught of water himself, tried to coax the horse to thrust its nose into the fountain. The horse was having none of it. It was obviously familiar with the proverb and realised it was well within its rights to refuse.
So, avocado pears. It was several years before I actually tasted one, and I can’t say I was over-impressed. A bit strange, a bit bland, but okay for Helensburgh, I suppose. They grow them here in the Alpujarras and I have toyed with the idea of purchasing a couple of trees and having a go myself.
Then this afternoon providence stepped in while I was digging in the compost heap and delivered into my earthy hands two avocado stones that had sprouted and possessed a healthy appearance. If I’d attempted to sprout them myself I would have failed. Nature, though, has taken its course and bestowed on me a pair of tiny avocado trees. They have been potted-up and look splendid. Hope I’m not flogging a dead horse.
To end this piece, here is a German proverb I’ve just found on the internet: a ripe pear is more likely to fall in the shit than on clean ground. Can’t argue with that.
Yes, avocados aren’t really pears, but what the hell. According to Wikipedia, they are large berries. I don’t believe that for a minute.