The Controversy Surrounding The Origins Of Avocado Toast

There's a surprising amount of contention concerning avocado toast. If there's one thing practically everyone can agree on, at least, it's that the simple dish is indeed relatively good for you, thus earning its reputation as a health food. Healthline explains that the simplest form of the recipe — just avocado and toast — can be useful in a weight loss diet and has various benefits for physical well-being. Of course, people often add ingredients like cheese, eggs, fruit, meat, seasonings, and veggies, etc., so the actual nutritional value of avocado toast may vary.

Obviously, personal tastes differ too, so even if it is good for you, not everyone will enjoy it. Plus, its popularity in trendy cities and online circles has led to it being labeled both "basic" and "hipster." Not to mention in 2017, a millionaire mogul told "60 Minutes" in Australia that today's youths will never be able to purchase a home because they're "spending $40 a day on smashed avocados and coffees and not working" (via the Guardian). This reinforced avocado toast's emerging status as a symbol for alleged Millennial decadence. Unsurprisingly, some people took offense to this implication, but the derisive reputation of avocado toast endures nonetheless.

Unfortunately for avocado toast and its fans, the controversy doesn't stop there either, as even the concoction's origins are debated.

Worlds apart

Some food creations are so simple they seem obvious in retrospect, and they become so widespread that it's difficult to tell where they first came from. This appears to be the case with avocado toast. The Washington Post notes that avocado toast exploded in popularity during the 2010s because of its photogenic attributes, health benefits, and celebrity endorsements. New York City's Café Gitane is often credited as the dish's official creator, having premiered it on their menu in the mid 2000s. Yet their chef Chloe Osborne, who's Australian, tried avocado toast back in Queensland as a child, so at most, Café Gitane simply introduced the invention to the United States.

Indeed, avocado toast had already been popular in Australia for a long time. According to Bon Appétit, Vegemite and mashed avocado are both popular spreads for toast in the lands down under, with Australian cultivation of avocados beginning back in the 1920s. In 1993, a restaurant near Sydney called Bills put avocado toast with chili flakes, lime, and salt on its menu, formalizing the first modern avocado toast. Even further back, though, there are actually U.S. examples of avocado toast on menus predating the Australian ones. Bon Appétit also documents a 1931 Clark Hotel offering of avocado on toast on its menus. So was the dish American this whole time, after all?

The avocado's native country

Simply put, it's not entirely clear, and that's where the controversy comes from. Taste mentions the British were actually eating avocado on French rolls and garlicky "common island loaves" back in 1843 on the British Virgin Islands. For the ultimate truth, though, Taste recommends looking not at various Western traditions, but rather at the avocado's place of origin. The avocado is native to Mexico, and as such, it seems likely its people were the first to try avocado on bread and eventually toast it. The avocado has been consumed in that region for thousands of years. In the 16th century, bread came to Mexico with Spanish settlers. So it seems probable that at some point, someone put two and two — avocado and toast — together for the first and now-forgotten time.

Over the years, avocados would spread geographically. Per The New Yorker, the fruit came to the United States in 1833 from Mexico, but it took decades for farmers to learn how to grow them properly and for the food to catch on. Nowadays, the California Hass variety dominates much of the avocado world, but Mexico is still the largest grower and exporter of avocados globally.

So is making avocado toast American, Australian, or Mexican? It's nice to know your food's history, but in this case, we're not sure there's one definitive answer. Perhaps this debate will at least make for some good brunch conversation!