Photographs by Miranda McDermott
One night a few weeks ago, I walked into the Ivy Room, Brown’s all-vegetarian dining hall that serves fresh smoothies, falafel wraps and more. Sighing as I saw how long the lines were, I figured it was just an especially busy night at the Ivy Room. However, I soon realized that all the excitement was over one specific offering: the avocado toast, a brand new addition to the menu. The Ivy Room dubs it “Bruschetta,” for they have more options than just avocado. You can choose between three spreads and a wide range of vegetables like carrots and spinach, along with fresh feta cheese and two different types of dressings. For 50 cents more, you can even add a fried egg on top. However, after listening to the orders of the many students in line in front of me, it became clear that avocado toast was what nearly every student was waiting in line for.
As a lover of avocado, I’m a sucker for this trendy food that has become all the rage. It’s delicious, healthy, light, and refreshing, and it can be dressed up many ways. In the past few years, an increasing number of cafes and coffee shops have added avocado toast to their menus, with various takes on the simple idea. Versions range from decadent toppings like citrus smoked salmon and poached eggs to simply a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a dash of black pepper. But if you ever thought that adding a side of guacamole at restaurants was expensive, try purchasing avocado toast. For simply a piece of bread topped with mashed avocado, one often pays over $7. Even in the Ivy Room, where prices are generally low and you can get a generously portioned falafel wrap for less than 5 dollars, one avocado toast is $6.25.
But despite it’s small size and high price, it’s a trendy food that has grabbed the attention of many Americans. Cafe Gitane, a bakery and cafe located in New York City, is thought of as the first place in the United States to sell avocado toast, beginning in 2006. Their version is relatively simple: avocado, lemon juice, olive oil, and chili flakes on multigrain toast. Since then, it’s grown rapidly. Scroll through Instagram, and you’ll most likely see a myriad of pictures of avocado toast. It’s aesthetically appealing, and I often see pictures of toast so beautifully crafted that it looks too pretty to eat. Foodies have now even moved past the classic mashed avocado approach to creating complex and elaborate spirals of thinly sliced avocado that look like roses.
To be fair, avocados have always been an expensive food product, with most grocery stores charging around two dollars each or more. An avocado tree takes 20 years before it actually starts producing fruit, and additionally, in the past few years, demand has gone up while unpredictable weather conditions have made production fall. Avocados are marketed as a “healthy fat,” encouraging Americans to incorporate this food into their diets. Many dieticians and health-conscious bloggers write benefits of avocados, which include potassium, fats, and fiber, among others. The demand for them has skyrocketed as they’ve started to become utilized in many different ways, including for oils and as a staple in smoothies. Even Tom Brady has joined the bandwagon, citing one of his favorite recipes as avocado ice cream.
Still, despite the nutritional benefits, I often can’t bring myself to pay such a high price for avocado toast when I know that I’ll soon be hungry again. As I sat in the Ivy Room with two of my friends, they echoed this same sentiment after they tried the new offering. We all loved it, but they both agreed that it wasn’t sufficient for a full dinner. Maybe a mid-studying snack at eleven o’clock some night, but definitely not dinner. While it’s nice to go into a cafe and be presented with a beautifully crafted dish, I often can’t bring myself to buy avocado toast when I know that even with the few cooking skills that I have, I can make it myself for much less than $7.
Then again, it sure is nice to treat yourself once in a while, so if you’re ever looking for a little pick-me-up that will make you happy looking at it and just as happy eating it, head to your favorite coffee shop, or even the Ivy Room, and join the crowds of hipsters who munch on avocado toast.