Saturday, August 20, 2005

A 30-year-old Mistake

Even though I grew up in California, I'd never eaten an avocado until I was a junior in college. I had plenty of opportunities -- I just never had the interest. For some reason, avocados didn't seem like a real food to me. I saw other people eating them (and apparently enjoying them), but people eat all sorts of things that I don't, ranging from cucumbers to live beetles.

Sometime in the middle of my third year of college, one of my room-mates moved out, so I had to find a new one. I don't remember much about him. I don't even remember his name. All I remember is that he liked avocados. One time, he asked me if I liked them and I told him I'd never eaten one before. So he offered to share one with me. I was a little reluctant, so he told me, "They have a mellow flavor, and you have a mellow personality, so you'll probably like them."

He cut me a wedge and I tried it. And from that moment I was hooked. I think I went out and bought some avocados that same day. I couldn't get enough of them. They didn't dominate my life or anything like that, but they did start to influence the way I looked at the world. For example, I didn't judge when summer was coming by looking at the calendar or by noticing the increase in temperature -- for me, the first sign of summer was when grocery stores began to lower their avocado prices.

A few years later, I moved into an apartment on Avocado Street. I didn't like the apartment much, and I sometimes told my friends that the best thing about it was the name of the street it was on. But living there had its price: It seems like every time someone wrote down my address, they spelled it "Avacado" so I had to constantly spell it out correctly for them. It was a very common mistake -- one time the city put up new street signs and they had the wrong spelling as well. They had new signs with the correct spelling within a week, but still, someone should have known better.

Anyway, if you know anything at all about avocados, you know that there are several varieties. One of them is the "Fuertes" and another one is what used to be called the "Haas" (presumably named after the first guy to grow them). But what was once the "Haas" has over the decades become known as the "Hass" so I figured someone must have misspelled it once and the mistake just propagated. So now, thirty years later, you can't go into a supermarket or grocery store without seeing it spelled "Hass."

This used to annoy me a lot, and I assumed it annoyed the descendents of Mr. Haas as well. It wouldn't have been so bad if they had misspelled "Fuertes" -- those avocados don't taste as good and I never even buy them. But "Hass" avocados are delicious, and for thirty years it bothered me every time I saw their name misspelled.

But very recently, I learned that they actually are "Hass" avocados, named after Rudolph Hass, a postal worker who first grew the trees sometime in the 1920s. So I've been mistaken for thirty years, which is a long time to be wrong about something, but at least now I don't get upset every time I buy them at the grocery store.