By Joe Bohlinger.
“In the summer of 2019, Southern California runs out of avocados. According to farmers from the central valley, a heat wave from the previous June and July has delayed the blooming of the cash crop. The yield is its lowest in years.”
Hybride II by Lionel Le Jeune.
What Jonathan Gold said: “When it is 72 degrees outside and the surf is up and Vin Scully is on the radio, who has the patience for casseroles or stews?”
The first date I take you on is to a Dodger Game. We eat Dodger Dogs. You haven’t had one since you were a kid. Up until last week, when I left for Japan, I’d been a vegetarian. All stews and salads. But my boss asked me to go check out a restaurant, a concept she wants to try out here, and I had Kobe beef. You turn the crank that drops a pile of chopped onions on your hot dog. You asked me out at the right time. You smile. I eat one more Dodger Dog than you, drink one more Modelo, and we leave in the seventh inning when they bring in Baez from the bullpen because he takes twenty minutes between every pitch and Vin Scully isn’t around to smooth out these silences anymore.
In the summer of 2019, Southern California runs out of avocados. According to farmers from the central valley, a heat wave from the previous June and July has delayed the blooming of the cash crop. The yield is its lowest in years. Avocados are sent up from Mexico, but they are smaller, less rich. Restaurant owners wonder how they will survive another scorching summer in the city without guacamole, guasacaca, the spread that they guess goes on toast now.
What Jonathan Gold said: “Heraclitus once wrote that it is impossible to step in the same river twice. In Los Angeles, it can be nearly impossible to eat in the same restaurant twice.”
We date for six months and never go to the same restaurant twice. We eat injera, pork katsu, papusas, grits, mulitas, yaki mandu, Szechuan shakshuka porridge, sheep’s blood ice cream, kaldereta, pho, ramen, dan dan, mayocoba, cheeseburgers, milkshakes, chilaquiles, masala dosa, khachapuri. I have lived here all my life. Me too. I’ve never been to any of these places before. I’m glad I could be the one to take you.
The big restaurants, the ones that advertise farm-fresh and 100 percent organic, are forced to take avocado off the menu. Sqrl, a happening new spot in L.A.’s hip Silver Lake neighborhood, no longer offers their famed “avocado breakfast bread.”
What Jonathan Gold said: “It is not impossible here to experience extremes — restaurants that are born and die in a single evening; restaurants in suburbs so distant that they may as well be theoretical; restaurants so hard to get into that they may not actually exist outside of blogs.”
You take me to a restaurant I’ve only ever seen rappers eat at on Instagram. You used to work the bakery shift with the woman who’s the head chef. She brings us six courses, one after another. We don’t order, she just keeps bringing food. You point out the ingredients before I drag the full bowls to my side of the table. You tell me where they’re from, which farms and which parts of the country. I eat everything. Outside, through the glass windows, people pushing shopping carts stop to watch. While you’re in the bathroom, the check comes. I ask the waitress to stay. I take out my debit card. Drop it down. You come back from the bathroom. Say someone was smoking in there, their butt aimed out an opened window. Can you believe that? Inside! The check comes back, and I go to sign and see that we’ve only been charged for one of the glasses of wine we ordered. Nothing else. We give what little leftovers we have to someone outside. I wait til I drop you off to smoke a cigarette in my car.
Smaller places, family owned taquerias and restaurants that still serve margaritas in bowls, develop a solution. No one discovers it until some shi-shi reporter, working for L.A. Taco, spills the secret during an NPR interview given in August 2019. Mexican summer squash, when mashed and spread across toast or tortilla, looks exactly like avocado. Tastes like it too.
What Jonathan Gold said: “Los Angeles is where the modern restaurant was born, the good, the bad and the ugly of it, and we’re too far gone to stop now.”
I return to the city from my first extended absence and visit your new apartment in Koreatown. In a Trader Joe’s bag, I lug ten, fat avocados picked from the tree in my parents’ backyard. For the sixth months we’ve dated, I’ve lived in their basement and never let you come over once. You are baking when I step inside, and I make a joke about taking your work home with you. Are those avocados? You don’t ask me anything about where I’ve been, why I left the city. You don’t talk about your new digs. Where did you get those? I’ve been looking all over! When I finally leave, you have just finished crying and the avocados are still in the Trader Joe’s bag. I wonder if you’ve used them all by now, or if you’ve been rationing them out. Making them last.
The head chef and owner at hit L.A. eatery Sqrl is asked about rising avocado prices after she makes the difficult decision to remove their staple item from the menu. She seems calm in the face of such a disaster. “How do you have avocados year-round?” She asks, then answers herself. “We don’t. But we’re not everyone else.”
The Blood Pudding – June 1, 2023
Joe Bohlinger is a writer from Los Angeles. He received his MFA in fiction from Oregon State University. His work has appeared in Hobart, Necessary Fiction, and Adsum. He currently lives in New Orleans, where he teaches writing at Loyola University.
Artwork: From Paris to Avignon, Lionel Le Jeune is a distinguishable artist with his fascinating oil painting, ink drawings of urban anonymous and soldiers portraits. You can find more about him here.