AVOCADOISM AND THE 70‘S
The Good, the Bad and the Green Appliances
I have noticed that the love and hate of avocado appliances depends on one’s age. If you are over 50, you experienced the greenish hue as new and innovative. Under 50, you remember the color as secondhand. Under 30, it is retro cool.
For me, avocados—both as a food and as a kitchen color—conjure up memories of my 1970’s childhood in Southern California. As my Mexican parents watched TV with their American-born children, we were given sneak peaks into TV Land’s Anglo homes. We noticed that The Brady Bunch, Bewitched and That Girl all had avocado green appliances in their spotless and disconcertingly clutter-free kitchens.
When my father watched TV with us he would always point them out with pride. “You see that? That’s avocado green.” Only he would say it in Spanish.
A “Rear Window” view of the Stevens’ in their kitchen.
See Darren run by the avocado washer and dryer. Run, Darwood, run!
That Girl went as far as to match her outfit with her appliances.
The Brady Bunch kitchen was accented with poppy orange. Not the ubiquitous harvest gold of the day.
Jeannie didn’t cook. She was the internet.
Mary Richard’s kitchen appliances remain a mystery.
But Mary Tyler Moore pimped white appliances on her spare time.
Florida Evans was poor. Ergo, no avocado appliances.
My parents happily took note as the color caught on in middle-class homes. But the trend turned into an eerie Stephen King novella. The murky “meteor juice” spread through kitchens, absorbing everything in its path including walls and shag carpets. By the mid-70’s, entire bathrooms were covered in a putrid green no longer reminiscent of the ripe fruit.
During this era of counter-culture (following the recent counter-culture of the 60’s), Mexican cuisine was losing its identity. Mexican mothers, who always felt out of step in their new country, were convinced that their traditional dishes were not good enough to “reach the big table.” Some women eagerly started incorporating American ingredients, like processed flour and cheddar cheese, into their embarrassingly outdated dishes. Ironically, the goal was to create the standard Mexican food being served at American restaurants. As a result, many traditional ingredients of the pre-Hispanic days began to disappear.
How many times did I hear one of my siblings whine, “I’m sick of Mexican food. Let’s go to Taco Bell!”
Which brings me back to the appliances of my youth. With the recognition of an indigenous fruit from Mexico in America’s most beloved television kitchens, we viewed the avocado color as a symbol of pride. Shortly after the TV shows’ cancellations—followed by their successful syndications—Mexican cuisine also experienced a renaissance. In the early 1980’s, Mexican chefs created the “nueva cocina Mexicana,” a transitional movement to restore pre-Hispanic cuisine with New World ingredients. Coincidence? Maybe, or maybe the great chefs of Norte America tuned into the same shows and experienced a growing solidarity through syndication.
In retrospect, the mass market design of dark paneled walls and murky colors may have been the mainstream’s attempt to spread conformity as a trend. For my family, who aspired to be middle class, purchasing the appliances declared that we had made it. Oh, how I loved our avocado green refrigerator and how the edges were a slightly darker shade. It took my 10-year-old breath away.
On an environmental note, if you still have an original avocado appliance chugging away in your home, consider retirement. The old refrigerators, for example, use three to four times the power of today’s models.
AVOCADO’S POETRY CORNER
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!—and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons? Allen Ginsberg