Where were the avocados coming from?

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I love avocados, but rarely buy them because of the expense. So it is a treat to eat them every day on my annual visit to my daughter.

Siri lives in a multiethnic neighborhood in Hawaii. A giant double-trunked avocado tree dwarfs her house. To pick the fruit, I hold a ladder steady while she climbs to the roof.

Once she's safely up, I hand her a long pole with a picker on the end. Using the pole for balance, she steps gingerly across the sloping roof to the tree. Stretching on tiptoe near the far edge, she extends the pole to pluck avocados that, even with the picker, are almost out of reach.

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Clinging to the top of the ladder to watch, I hold my breath and keep silent, not wanting to distract her by admonishing her to be careful.

When she detaches an avocado from the tree, she tips the picker toward me and the avocado rolls within my reach.

When we have enough to make salads for several suppers, I take them down the ladder in a pouch I've bunched up in my shirt. Then I turn back to get the pole and to steady the ladder again while Siri descends.

These avocados are not the best variety. Although they are large, the seed takes up most of the interior, so there is little meat. And they're a bit stringy. But I find them delicious – perhaps because of the shared adventure of picking them in soft air filled with bird song and the exotic scent of plumeria blossoms.

Once, after I returned home from a visit, my daughter phoned to tell me that every couple of days she'd come home from work to find a plastic bag of avocados hanging from her doorknob. "I don't know who would be leaving them," she said. "Everyone in the neighborhood knows I have my own tree."

These avocados were of a different variety from hers. They were smaller and much tastier and contained more meat, which had a creamy texture. But there were far too many for her to eat – and the supply kept coming.

Determined to find the source – and to thank the donor – she walked around her neighborhood one Saturday morning looking to see who had a tree. She found only one. It belonged to the Filipino family up the street.

The mystery apparently solved, she spent the rest of the morning baking a cheesecake. When it cooled, she took it to their house. She asked the son who answered the door to give it to his mother. "For the avocados," she explained.

Curious as to whether others had been recipients of avocados, she called on her Japanese neighbor, Lin, across the street. Lin said that she had indeed been receiving them, but they were not from the Filipino family, they were from Siri's Chinese neighbor, Linda.

"But Linda doesn't have an avocado tree," said my daughter.

"The avocados are from your tree," Lin replied.

Siri protested that they couldn't possibly be from her tree because her avocados were large and not very good, and these were small and delicious.

"Siri, you have two trees in your yard, and one of them hangs completely over Linda's yard," Lin said. "She's given avocados to all of her relatives, friends, and neighbors until they refuse any more. When she couldn't give any more away she decided to give the rest back to you, since they are yours."

Embarrassed that she'd caused so much trouble for her neighbor, Siri returned home to investigate the presence of a mysterious second tree in her yard. She discovered that the double-trunked tree was actually two separate trees of different varieties. The foliage was so thick that it wasn't apparent that one tree leaned over her fence, dropping its entire harvest in Linda's yard.

Once she knew the truth, Siri wondered what the family up the street could be thinking about her gift of cheesecake.

She didn't wonder long. One of the Filipino boys came to her house that afternoon with a heavy sack. "My mother said you needed avocados," he said.

They thought the cheesecake was for barter!

Nonplussed, Siri accepted the bag with a polite, if weak, smile and mumbled thanks.

The neighborhood now saturated with avocados, she took the largess to her office and shared it with her co-workers.

Now I'm wondering, on my next visit, how can we retrieve some of Siri's really good avocados from her neighbor's yard?

Avocado Quick Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon
cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 cup peeled and mashed ripe Hass avocado (about 1 medium avocado)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or pistachios (may substitute golden raisins, if preferred)
1-1/2 teaspoons orange or lemon zest (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and grease a 9-by-5-inch metal loaf pan.

Place flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl and whisk or stir to blend.

In a medium bowl, mix the egg and mashed avocado. Blend in the buttermilk.

Add the avocado mixture to the dry ingredients, blending well. Stir in nuts or raisins and zest, if using. The mixture will be thick.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Watch carefully and do not overbake.

Cool bread in pan on rack for 10 minutes and then turn out of pan to cool completely.

Makes 1 loaf or about 10 servings.

Note:This recipe does not contain any added fat; the omission is not a mistake.

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