Saturday, November 18, 2006

Time for Avocado and Peanut Salad, Courtesy of Côte d'Ivoire

Time is a funny thing. On some occasions it evaporates, like when you are absorbed in a good book on a chilly day, a cup of tea by your side. Other days it’s cordoned off into neat and tidy chunks: meeting from 8-10; article due by noon; dentist appointment at 12; lunch with friends between 1 and 2. Once in awhile, time is thick, like quicksand, determined to prevent all forward movement, as when waiting in a never-ending queue, or during the last workday minutes of a Friday afternoon. Some of the longest hours of my life were spent on a street corner in Brisbane where I had the dastardly job of handing out advertisements for a chain of parking lots, all in clear view of the slowest moving clock I have ever seen, perched on top of the Suncorp tower.

Time can be heralded with the jingle of an on-the-hour news break, a school bell or the call from a mosque. It can also stretch before you, long and languid, like an endless white-sand beach, with nothing to mark its passing but the movement of the sun. And every so often you want to push the fast forward button on time, or, like TiVo, save the bit that you have now, but would find much more enjoyable later.

I realize, however, that despite these varied experiences of time and our casual use of expressions such as “time flies” or “time stood still,” it is not time itself that keeps changing its character, but we who are changing and living time in different ways. I was thinking these thoughts about time today, as I counted down the hours before Mark and I leave on our trip to Zanzibar. I always get a bit anxious before traveling, especially when this travel involves Zimbabwe’s less-than-reliable national air carrier. But, I’ve decided, my anxiety also stems from my conflicting feelings towards time. On one hand I want time to speed up – to be on that plane and in the air. On the other hand, I want time to slow down, so that I have the chance to pack leisurely, to tie up loose ends, and, of course, to write a post before my weeklong blog hiatus.

The puzzle is, what can I cook that is quick and easy, and doesn’t create leftovers I won’t have the opportunity to eat? The answer is this refreshing avocado and peanut salad from Côte d'Ivoire. Its appeal stems from the ingredients’ contrasting flavors (sweet, spicy and sour) and textures (creamy and crunchy). Now, I have no aversion to simply slicing open an avocado and eating it straight from the peel. But, with a just a few more minutes on my hands, the extra effort to make this salad is well worth it. One day – maybe as an antidote to the tedium of packing or the anxiety of time – you, too, can give it a try.

Avocado Salad with Crunchy Peanut Topping
Adapted from Food by Country
Serves 4-6

3 ripe avocados
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons finely chopped peanuts (a.k.a. groundnuts)
¾ teaspoon paprika
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

Peel the avocados and cut the flesh into cubes. Place the cubes in a small bowl, and toss with the lemon juice. In a separate bowl, mix together the peanuts, paprika, ground cinnamon, cayenne paper and salt. Spoon the avocado onto your serving plate, and top with a sprinkling of the peanuts. Serve immediately.

This post is an entry in Slashfood's Going Nuts in November food blog event.

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