Bea Says To-MAH-toh

It’s fun being an international student: one gets to inter-act with new friends from many nations and cultures, taste new food during banquets, potlucks, and private dinners; and learn about human nature in general.

My roommates at various times when I was in graduate school included Beatrice from Dublin, Ireland; Nelia from Manila, Philippines; Joan  from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Catherine from Tulsa, Oklahoma. They were all interesting ladies, but Beatrice stands out when I think about food topics.

One day, she came home and found a pot of chop suey which I had prepared a short while before. By her own narration, this is what transpired.  She tasted it and thought, “This is so good, it must have come from a can!”

Ha-ha-ha. The naivete of young ladies who can’t  or  don’t cook!

Bea and I had a long-standing “argument” about two foods. She said to-MAH-toh, I said to-MAY-toe. She thought avocado was a vegetable; I insisted,”Fruit!”


Both the tomato and the avocado, surprisingly, are gifts to world from Mesoamerica. Mesoamerica is a region and cultural area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and northern Costa Rica

Ancient peoples from this region enjoyed a rich and varied cuisine, which eventually spread around the world through a phenomenon later termed the Columbian Exchange.  Through this process, the Old World (Europe and the Near East) exchanged crops, animals, technology, and ideas with the New World (the Americas).

Among the remarkable crops that came out of the Mexican region are the xtomatl and the ahuacatl.  Surely, you can recognize which crops these are, without me having to translate the old Aztec terms.

easy guacamole recipe
The ancient people of Mesoamerica enjoyed this current U.S. favorite.
Guacamolli contained avocados, tomatoes, and chili peppers.

Regarding pronunciation: speakers of the “King’s English” say to-mah-to, while folks who speak “American English” are okay with te-may-toh.  Both are correct; it’s just a matter of who’s talking, or where they are located.

About the  fruit or vegetable?  issue.  Both are fruits. (Sorry, Beatrice.) In laymen’s terms, “fruit” is the fleshy seed-associated part of a plant; it may be sweet or sour, and you can eat it raw.

In the culinary sense, however, fruit are associated with sweet tastes, while vegetables are on the savory side.  (In this case, Beatrice, you’re right!  You use avocado in salads, with dressings that usually include vinegar, i.e., savory.)  HOWEVER, I’m also right in claiming that the avocado is a fruit: it is used in refrigerator pies, smoothies, and ice cream.

One of the most popular items sold from the pre-departure areas of the Manila interrnational airport is avocado ice cream; they come packaged with dry ice for the flight home.  Passengers take them as home-coming presents.)

An avocado ice cream sandwich.


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