At work, around lunch time, my friend/co-worker was telling me that he found it nice that a fruit shake kiosk had avocados in stock when we were stumped by a very simple question from our HR supervisor: “what does an avocado taste like?” There’s a long story behind why she hasn’t tasted it yet, but the short of the long is this: her mother is German, and her mom didn’t really serve avocado to them. After 30 years of existence, she hasn’t figured that out yet, and now, it’s become a question that I wanted to give an answer to (because I enjoy the process of getting the answer rather than having it). It’s nearly 12 hours after I first thought about the question, and I’ve gone through a lot of things just to answer the question, but still, I’m stumped.
From experience, I’ll say that it doesn’t have much flavor on its own. I’d say that it’s a combination of newly-cut grass (yes, I did pick a few blades long ago just to taste it) and a tad acrid. I won’t go as far as saying that it’s buttery (which is how most people on the web describe it). Mostly, I’ve eaten it cold with condensed milk for a sweetener or as guacamole on chips. Considering those confounding factors on its flavor, I realized that I needed to think it through — long, hard, and with a sizable set of words to consider using. With not much to go on, I set the question aside by focusing on work in the office.
Later that day, I saw the new video of Emily Brewster on Merriam-Webster.com about the number of words in the English language. I won’t tell you how many so that you’ll watch the video instead. I trailed off with the idea that if words for numbers counted as a word, there’d be an infinite number of words since we can start counting and might not be able to stop for a short break to look up what comes after a milliard. Fascinating!
When I got home to enjoy unrestricted internet access, I went on Twitter to tweet Kory Stamper to mildly imply that I want a video with her in it, and that’s when all hell broke loose! I found a post that mentioned her discussion about how they are defining colors. Apparently, there are color names like sweet william (a type of pink, which seems to refer to the color of Dianthus barbatus) and cadet (a grayish blue hue that I can’t imagine). Apparently, there’s a lot of muck in defining colors, which brought me to thinking that if there’s such a ruckus in that group of words, what other commotion can there be for flavors!
On the most basic level, I have sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami to start with. I wouldn’t count spicy all that much into the category of flavor since it’s more like a burning sensation rather than a taste, but most people will, so there’s that. There’s also bland, but that’s not much help, is it? After those simpler taste descriptions, we’ll find complex ones that incorporate other factors in the meaning like acrid and savory. I’ll just leave the other words that use the food to refer to the flavors since that should be easy — but no, I can’t — so I’ll say curry, vanilla, chocolate, and my favorite, barbecue. I don’t know if lexicographers will consider those as flavors like how I don’t consider spicy as a flavor, but as you can see, it’s really hard to describe the taste of avocados.
Here’s a really stupid syllogism that is my sleepy brain’s attempt to answer the question:
Everything tastes like chicken.
An avocado is something.
Therefore, avocados can be part of the set known as everything,
which leads us to the conclusion that an avocado tastes like chicken.
I’ll give it a rest for now since I’m already talking non-sense. Could I pass this off to you now? How would you describe an avocado’s taste to someone who’s never tasted it ever — with or without a German or (insert nationality here) mother? While we’re at it, let me just throw in a couple more questions. How would you describe the taste of wasabi, dragon fruit, and pumpkin seed? I smell a lot of geeky fun coming out from this, and I hope to get tons of help on this.