There's a time and a place to be a purist: Don't order a California roll at a Japanese restaurant. Don't order your steak well-done, anywhere. Don't bother with vegetarian versions of Shanghai soup dumplings. Don't eat any bagel you could use as a flotation device. At least, that's what certain self-professed experts would tell you. Mostly, rules like that are a (sometimes pretty clumsy) attempt to nudge people away from habits that can interfere with the more nuanced pleasures of a dish or a cuisine. And yes, people will take issue with any rule, and anyone's version of any dish—because whose pleasure are we talking about, anyway? But exactly what are we gaining from the guacamole purism—make that hater-ism—that's sweeping the nation?
Take Chrissy Teigen's guacamole recipe. The model and cookbook author (Cravings) puts cheese in her guacamole, and when she first posted the recipe last year it caused a social-media firestorm. Now the scandal is surfacing once again. Yes, guacamole is a dish that some purists would say contains only avocados, lime juice, cilantro, salt, onions and tomato (others would also add jalapenos, garlic and other spices).
But here's the thing about mashing fresh, creamy avocados into a dip: It's going to taste pretty damn good, especially if you add ingredients (traditional or not) that enhance the other flavors you're working with. Why not cheddar, every once in a while? Sure, cheese mixed in with the avocado isn't for everyone. But Chrissy likes it, and plenty of other guacamole-lovers do too. So what's the big deal?
By the way, a certain outstanding guacamole recipe by chef Susan Feniger also led a few commenters to complain that it's not technically guacamole. The base recipe actually is, but Feniger also includes an unorthodox topping of bacon, roasted tomatoes and cotija cheese that adds a boatload of flavor—and anyone who doesn't want that can leave it out.
But for any version that strays even a little bit from tradition, the semantics police will come out in force and hand out tickets. Fair enough? Maybe, but considering how chefs and creative home cooks are playing with any and every food tradition these days, we'd better all stay away from naming dishes, then. (As for whether the word guacamole refers to a certain male body part? That's a whole other controversy we're not going to touch.)
Come to think of it, order a California roll if that's what you're craving more than a slab of otoro. Order your steak however you want it. By all means, try a not-so-soupy, pork-broth-less veggie soup dumpling if you must. And bagel purism in 2016? Good luck with that.
In the meantime, give Chrissy's guacamole, or whatever you want to call it, a shot. (She adapted it from Alton Brown's beloved recipe.) Try it with chips, put it on your chicken sandwich, see how it goes.The only person who might get upset is Chrissy's husband, John Legend. According to Chrissy on her site So Delushious:
"Ready for some uncomfortable backstory? This recipe would not exist if not for my ex-ex-boyfriend’s wonderfully resourceful father, who cubed up blocks of cheddar and dumped it haphazardly into his own secret guac recipe. Is John reading this? He totally isn’t going to eat this again."
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