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The Big Chill: Cucumber Avocado Soup

Sat Jun 28, 2008

Cucumber Avo Soup

Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup

In college, I had one friend who still refused to eat vegetables. “I hate them,” she insisted repeatedly and with the vehemence of a five-year-old presented with a plate of cauliflower. And she meant it. In the span of fours years, the only vegetables I ever saw her eat, on purpose, were carrots cooked with cinnamon, potatoes and artichokes dipped in butter and sprinkled with salt. Believing that her aversion to veggies lay in poor parental preparation—overcooked, under-seasoned and texturally inert—I learned to cook broccoli al dente and make fresh cheese sauce for the cauliflower. But to no avail. My friend would look at the veggies with disdain, sniff them and then, with a flick of her long, brown hair, push them away. So I resigned, like a concerned parent, to slipping vegetables into dishes on the sly. There was spinach in my stuffed shells, chopped fine and mixed into the cheese and there were carrots and onions in my turkey burgers.

If at first you don’t succeed…

According to the article “The Corrections” in the July 2008 issue of Gourmet Magazine, everything we thought we knew about taste was wrong. We don’t taste different things with different parts of our tongue and what we can taste isn’t limited to bitter, sweet, sour and salty. Even adding umami to the list doesn’t cover what we’re capable of perceiving. And while what we can taste isn’t clear, what is clear is that we all taste things differently. For example, I enjoy things that are usually thought of as bitter—black coffee, Brussels sprouts, really dark chocolate—so maybe I’m predisposed to liking bitter things. But a predisposition doesn’t, according to the article, equate to a like or a dislike. “There are many things you might not like the first time you taste them,” Dr. Ray Salemme tells author Bruce Feiler, “but you learn to like them. A lot.”

Which brings me to my theory: You can learn to like things over time, by re-approaching them with an open mind. When I was a kid I was allergic to tomatoes, and though I grew out of the allergy when I was in my early teens, I didn’t appreciate a fresh tomato until I was in my 20s. I tried them periodically, but was always repulsed by the mealy, seedy innards. The flavor wasn’t bad, but the texture was like slurping primordial ooze. Then, one day I tried a crisp, grape tomato that popped in my mouth with a burst of sweetness. It was firm and fresh with a liquid center like Chewels gum and I was converted.

Try, try again

What my college friend refused to do was try again. She had decided that she didn’t like any vegetables as a child and teen and didn’t leave room for those tastes to change or adapt. She turned her nose at fresh spinach and green beans and corn based on a memory, not on a recent experience.

If we stop trying and retrying new food items, think of all the new flavors we’d miss out on.

There was a time that I didn’t like avocadoes, either. Their green, lizard-like skin was far from enticing and their interior was a textural challenge whether sliced or mashed into guacamole. The flavor was like cream of grass mixed with lard. But then one day I watched a server make guacamole tableside, using only lime juice, mashed avocadoes and sea salt. I forced myself to try it and was surprised at how delightful it was. Creamy, mildly sweet and a little earthy with the crunch of salt and tangy lime acidity it suddenly seemed like the perfect food.

These days I love avocadoes. Mashed into a guacamole, like the one at the restaurant or out of hand with just a squeeze of lemon and pinch of Maldon. I like them in sandwiches, over eggs and diced with mangoes. And with all of their healthy fats and fabulous flavor, I’m always looking recipes that will make use of the avocadoes growing on the tree in my yard, like this one for cucumber avocado soup. Perfect on a hot summer day, when sweat rolls down the back of your knees in torrents, it’s refreshing, easy and requires absolutely no cooking.

So the next time you here yourself say, “No thanks, I don’t like that.” Think back to the last time you tried it. If it wasn’t recently, give it another shot. You might just be surprised to find it’s your new favorite food.

Cucumber Avocado Soup
adapted from Gourmet

1 lb of cold, seedless cucumbers
1 large firm-ripe avocado
2 scallions, coarsely chopped
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
½ cup chilled buttermilk
coarse kosher salt

Chop cucumber into ½-inch cubes. Halve the avocado and chop into ½-inch cubes. Blend together cucumber (reserving about ¼-cup) and half the avocado, the scallions, the buttermilk and a teaspoon of salt until smooth. Mix whole pieces of avocado and cucumber into the soup and season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes four servings.

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7 Responses to “The Big Chill: Cucumber Avocado Soup”

  1. Brooke Says:

    Looks like a perfect, warm day soup/meal. I can’t wait to make this one!

  2. grace Says:

    you had me at avocado. how refreshing and healthy and delicious–nicely done! your college roomie is completely missing out on some glorious food. 🙂

  3. Neal Says:

    Totally been there… I wouldn’t eat anything if I hadn’t been forced to go back and try everything again once I left home for college and had to eat whatever I could get my hands on for free or cheap.

    My mom is still amazed that I love spinach salad!

  4. Like grass mixed with lard. « FP Daily Says:

    […] | Tags: avocado, cuke!, soup soup soup!, summa’ Leah from Spicy Salt Sweet asks us to give this cucumber-avocado soup a chance, even if we’ve thought this about avocados: “Their green, lizard-like skin was […]

  5. Mandi Says:

    I am a firm believer in trying things again. If i don’t like something i’ll always try it if it’s presented to me, just to see if i still dislike it. And a number of times i’ve been turned around my opinion on the food item. That’s not to say i’ll go out and buy things i don’t like to try because that could end up being a waste. But i’ll always try it if i’m at someone’s house.

    It makes me think that a lot of times people are picky eaters not because they dislike a lot of food, but because they refuse to be adventurous.

  6. Maxine Says:

    I used to poke the avocado out of each piece of sushi because I couldn’t stand it, but not it’s basically my favorite thing ever! I totally agree that an open mind is half the battle when trying new things. I had a roommate in college who would have been best friends with yours. Carrots and bagged lettuce were the only veggies she would touch.

    This recipe looks great! I love the chunks of cucumber for a crunchy texture.

  7. Rachel Says:

    Wow, this looks fantastic, I can’t wait to try making it 🙂

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