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

iStock
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.
iStock

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.

Microwave Your Food Safely With This Soft Silicone Lunch Box

ParentDiary
ParentDiary

Even if the contents of your lunch are healthy, the container you pack it in may pose a threat to your health. Heating up some plastic food storage containers can release harmful chemicals, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics warns families to avoid putting such products in the microwave or dishwasher. (And there's still some debate as to what constitutes a microwave-safe plastic.) But the All-Silicone Lunch Box, a storage product currently raising money on Kickstarter, is strong enough to stand up to a range of temperatures, allowing you to safely put it in the freezer, the microwave, and the dishwasher.

This lunch container is made from silicone instead of plastic, making it a safer choice for kids and adults. The flexible box is easy to seal, open, and wash (either by hand or in the dishwasher). And whether you're using it to store leftovers in the freezer or heat up your lunch in the office kitchen, the All-Silicone Lunch Box is designed to maintain its shape and not leech anything unsavory into your food.

After originally releasing a single-compartment box, ParentDiary has now developed a lunch box with dividers, too. The container is now available with three compartments (perfect for snacks or bento boxes), or two compartments (with each side just big enough to fit half a sandwich).

The All-Silicone Lunch Box has over a month left to reach its $4000 funding goal and has raised $1000 so far.

Pledge $12 or more on Kickstarter by May 19 to reserve your own lunch box, with shipping set for June. For more packed lunch inspiration (including some other great silicone options), check out these products.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

The Joy of Breakfast: Bob Ross Cereal Is Here to Make Mornings a Little Happier

FYE
FYE

Bob Ross's sunny disposition is the perfect match for breakfast. The painter and television personality already has his own toaster, and now Food & Wine reports that he's also inspired a breakfast cereal.

Bob Ross: The Joy of Cereal channels the many landscape paintings Bob Ross produced on his television series, The Joy of Painting. It's loaded with toasted oat bites and colorful marshmallows shapes. There are seven distinct marshmallow pieces—happy little trees, happy little accidents, almighty mountains, guiding stars, rainbow hearts, charming little cabins, and lovely little bushes—but like a good artist, you may need to get creative to figure out which shape matches which description.

While starting your day with a bowl of Bob Ross cereal, you can further awaken your artistic side by looking at the back of the box. The package features a cutout “positivity paint palate” with inspirational quotes from the painter. Reading them first thing in the morning is the next best thing to watching reruns of the The Joy of Painting on YouTube.

Bob Ross: The Joy of Cereal is now available from FYE for $10 a box. For Bob Ross merchandise with an even longer shelf life, check out these products.

[h/t Food & Wine]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER