I was raised a sugar addict.
When I awoke every morning at my house in a suburb of L.A., I would amble across the terrazzo floors in my slippers to the kitchen. There, in the cabinet that was just within my reach above the white formica counter top , I would find a dozen brightly colored boxes. Each box had a different cartoon animal on it - bears, rabbits, even a toucan -yet each critter shared the identical wild eyes and big smiles. How could I resist such friendly! fun! exciting! characters when my eyes were still full of sleep?
I poured the dry flakes-squares-nuggets-loops into my white bowl, the cereal tingling like I imagine diamonds sound when poured into a crystal vase. Then I added a splash of milk and a heaping spoonful or two of refined sugar and carried the bowl to the white Eero Saarinen tulip table, nestled myself into my tulip chair, and devoured my fix, all washed down with a glass of Sunny Delight orange flavored drink.
In retrospect, I wonder why I didn't just mainline high-fructose corn syrup directly into my veins. I suppose I was too young to use a hypodermic needle.
Thankfully, I've mostly weened myself off the sugar addiction in the intervening 30 years. Years have passed since I last had a soda or fruit juice sweetened with corn syrup. The closest thing to the Kellogg's of my childhood is the occasional muesli with yogurt.
My new addiction is fruit.
I can't imagine a breakfast that doesn't include a ripe piece of fruit. Being a good little disciple of Alice Waters and the Slow Food Movement, my fruit of choice varies with the seasons, is locally grown, and usually organic. Right now I'm eating a lot of different varieties of fresh citrus and apples and pears stored from the fall harvest.
And guavas. You might not think that local California guavas would be any good and for the most part, you'd be right. There is, however, one farmer who grows the most incredible Asian guavas and sells them at our local farmers market.
Tucked into a corner in the back of the farmers market, Will Brokaw (aka the Avocado Guy) sells a variety from his family's farm that they label "White Malaysian." The yellow to chartreuse colored fruits are not particularly inviting in appearance. They look like an apple or pear with a slight case of the mumps and often include a few brown scars.
Don't be put off. Pick one up. Close your eyes. Inhale deeply. I guarantee a smile will spread across your face as you are embraced by aromas of ripe pear, cut pineapple, and some heaven-sent flower you can't quite recall the name of.
After years of buying Will's guavas, I've learned how to discern the sweetest, most succulent fruits. Choose the pale yellow, pear-shaped fruits (see picture at top of post). The larger, the better. These will have fewer of the small hard seeds that often mar the guava eating experience. (Make sure you leave some for me!).
Cradle your treasure with the care that you would bestow on a juicy heirloom tomato in August. Will's guavas may seem hard, but they bruise as easily as an avocado. Once home, place the guavas in a pretty bowl on your counter and allow them to perfume your kitchen. Quince, which are renowned for their evocative aroma, smell like cardboard compared to the guava. Monitor the fruits closely, though, and place them in the refrigerator in a sealed container or plastic bag the second you see signs of bruising or softening. If you're like me, you'll eat most of them within a few days of your purchase, no matter how many you've bought.
Next comes the moment you've been anticipating since the fruit's aroma first tickled your imagination. What could such a thing taste like? I like to peel my guava first, then I simply cut it into quarters and then pieces, as if it were a large kiwi. The small seeds are hard, but I eat them regardless. Just don't bite down too hard.
The mouth feel is like a dense custard, a cross between a perfectly ripe Comice pear, a banana, and a crème caramel. The flavor is explosive. Pear! Pineapple! Mango! All at once. It's like a German riesling transformed into a fruit.
I am inevitably transported to N's grandparents' kitchen in Bombay. The morning after N and I first arrived and met Ba and Dada, we sat around the billboard-sized kitchen table and sipped masala chai and ate the jalebi and ganthia I recently described as one of my 10 favorite foods. We also ate bowl after bowl of guavas from Allahabad. I undoubtedly consumed as much sugar during that morning as I did during my own childhood breakfasts. No wonder it felt like home.
Will sells the Brokaw Nursery Malaysian guavas at his stand on Saturdays at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and Tuesday afternoons at the Berkeley Farmers Market on Derby Street. When they're available, he sells his perfect avocados online here. Although the guavas are mentioned on his website, I am not sure if he sells them online.