THERE are 432 million pounds of avocados in your future, hopes the California Avocado Commission. This year's is the largest crop ever, boasted the commission's eastern merchandising director, Craig Oosdyke, as he wined and dined a couple hundred salespeople at the Four Seasons last week. With their cooperation, he explained, "California avocados are very profitable and we're all going to make money in the end."
In order to make that money, the commission is spending $8 million in promotion--roughly a penny an avocado--and hiring Angie Dickinson to stretch her bare legs across advertisements touting the fruit as a health and diet food. "Would this body lie to you?" Dickinson will be cooing. The avocado pitch will be made in English and Spanish, as well as tied in with promos for the likes of Bacos and Triscuits.
Much as we like avocados, we wouldn't call them--with about 250 calories per whole fruit--a diet food; we wonder whether Dickinson keeps her legs so slim and lovely by eating the avocados or by rubbing them on as skin cream. In any case, with foodservice people and produce managers being tempted by the avocado commission with sales incentives such as televisions, Sony Walkmans and food processors, you might find that any way you slice it, somebody is going to be trying to sell you an avocado this season. THE National Restaurant Association has cast a stern eye on the salad bar and come out with a statement asking its members to stop using sodium bisulfite to preserve the appearance of fruits and vegetables. The chemical, mixed with water and used to prevent discoloration, is often sprayed on salad bar fixings as a freshener, and has been found to induce allergic reactions in some consumers, particularly asthmatics. LETTING our minds wander under the influence of spring fever, here are a few sweet thoughts:
Popsicles. Maybe tradition dictates that we should not tamper with success, but they really have warranted a little improvement. And now it has come, in the guise of "natural fruit bars," frozen pure'ed fruits on a stick in flavors such as apple and pineapple, even coconut covered with chocolate. Mostly fruit, with a nicely chewy and fibrous texture, diluted only with some water and sugar and a little vegetable and locust bean gum, they come under the name of Shamitoff's, which doesn't quite have the punch of "Popsicle," and they cost nearly 50 cents each, in independent groceries. We can't tell you what the banana, strawberry or cherry taste like because at our house they had a mysterious way of disappearing into the mouths of babes before we could get to them. But we can tell you they taste like the Haagen-Dazs of ice pops.
Pistachios. We always considered them at their best right from the shell, until we tried pistachio brittle, buttery and crunchy and not too sweet, the first pistachio candy we've tasted that allowed the nuts themselves to shine. We found it at Cache-Pot in Rockville, along with pistachio-filled chocolates such as nougats, turtles, buttercrunch and raspberry caramels. The brittle is $8 a box, the assortment $7.25. A shankbone will turn into a mushroom and an egg into a potato in the interest of vegetarianism this Saturday. The occasion is the Jewish Vegetarian Society's Passover seder at the Baltimore Ethical Society. Admission is $2.50 plus a vegetarian dish and its written recipe, or $6 if you cannot bring a dish. Reservations can be made by calling 301-521-3061 or 301-752-8348. ONE of this season's most intelligent and charming cookbooks is "Cooking with Lydie Marshall"; and the same could be said about the author. She will be demonstrating her cooking at Kitchen Bazaar in Falls Church this Thursday , 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. While the demonstration is free, seating is limited and on a first-come, first-serve basis.
FOR less than the cost of a single fixed-price dinner at Jean-Louis restaurant you can now have a chance to see how he does it and maybe learn to do it yourself. Jean-Louis Palladin is teaching a series of cooking classes at L'Academie de Cuisine on Tuesday mornings for the next couple of months, at $35 a session. To reserve, call 986-9490. EMPTY calories may now come packaged with empty activity. We hear that new soda vending machines are being made to incorporate a video screen so that buying a bottle will entitle the consumer to a free game. That may have the unexpected benefit of sending us back to the water fountain, where the line will move faster. WE have picked out our own lobsters, chosen the size of our steaks, concocted our own salads in the consumer-participation trend of today's restaurants. Now, if the market testing goes well in Texas, we are going to be frying our own chicken and potatoes at 7-Eleven stores. The deal is that the customer pours frozen chicken-and-fries or steak-and-fries into a fryer, which then dispenses the cooked product. Next we may be invited to wash our own dishes.