Listening Script Vocabulary
(Section 4: You will hear a talk on the topic of food science. First, you will have some time to look at questions 31 to 40 [20 seconds]. Listen carefully and answer questions 31 to 40.)
L: Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to the last lecture in this series on food science, which, as you already know, is about the avocado. Let’s start with a little history.
On May 15, 1915, in the posh new Hotel Alexandria in Los Angeles, a cadre of California farmers gathered to decide the fate of a new crop.
The ahuacate, a pebbly-skinned, pear-shaped fruit, had been a staple food in Mexico, and Central and South America since 500 B.C. In the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors fell in love with the fruit after observing its prized status among the Aztecs.
Until the early 1900s, the ahuacate had never been grown commercially in the United States. By 1914, however, hotels in Los Angeles and San Francisco were ordering as many of the fruits as they could and paying as much as $12 for a dozen.
But the farmers faced a marketing problem. First, ‘ahuacate’ was too hard for Americans to pronounce. It also had another unappealing name: ‘alligator pear.’
The farmers came up with a new name: avocado. They informed dictionary publishers of the change and named their own group the California Avocado Association.
The approach worked. Today, California accounts for nearly 90 percent of all avocados grown in the United States.
When the farmers first met, E.J. Wilson, a Berkeley horticulturalist, predicted little interest from the American market, saying that it contained no sugar, and fruits were supposed to be sweet — the sweeter the better.
The farmers knew that Wilson's concerns were unfounded. What made the avocado so different from other fruit was the very reason it was appealing.
Like most fruit, the avocado ripens once plucked from the tree. But its flesh is unlike any other: buttery, not sweet, somewhat nutty and oily in flavour; firm enough to be sliced or diced, yet pliable enough to be mashed into a paste or puree.
There are more than 400 varieties of avocado, but Hass has become the most popular in the United States. Named after postal worker Rudolph Hass, who purchased the seedling in 1926 from a California farmer, the distinctive purplish-black fruit has a thicker skin and smaller body than other varieties. Farmers found the Hass easier to cultivate, and its higher oil content and good nutty flavour appealed to consumers.
Avocados present a mouth-watering array of serving options. They can be sliced and served with apples, nuts and cheese. In their most popular form, guacamole, they are mashed with salt, lime, garlic, coriander, chiles and tomatoes, depending on the recipe. They can be fed to infants, and Indonesians blend them into drinks with sweet condensed milk. Brazilians add it to ice cream. Californians put it in their maki rolls.
Avocados have a subtle nutty flavour — too subtle for some people to get excited about. But the beauty of avocados is not so much its flavour as its oily consistency. Avocados have become popular in restaurants and homes because, in food-science terms, they act as a ‘covalent bond’ with other ingredients. The creaminess of the fruit converts disparate tastes into complementary ones and adds flavour to otherwise dull ingredients. Another way to think of avocado's role is to consider the fat marbling in a prime steak. Marbling is what makes a steak flavourful. Avocados, with their natural fatty richness, serve a similar purpose when incorporated with other foods. Mash an avocado with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of oil, and you'll find it adds flavour to nearly any meal.