The kid comes home from college: guacamole time!

Funny story about my molcajete – the mortar and pestle, made of rough volcanic rock, that I feel is essential for making great guacamole. Grinding onion, chiles, cilantro and salt together to a paste in the molcajete makes a base that gives the dip superb, deep flavor.

I've had my molcajete for decades – so long, I can't even remember where I got it. I was definitely living in New York, and it was before I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn, so pre-1995. Somewhere along the way, after moves to Los Angeles and then Dallas, I lost the molcajete's pestle. I continued making guacamole, natch, but had to muddle along improvising with a wooden spoon or the pestle that belonged to my smooth marble mortar. Not good with that rough volcanic stone. At some point, I found a wooden tool, with a broad bulb of wood on the end, used to mix Mexican hot chocolate. Somehow I thought I'd live the rest of my life that way, smashing chiles and cilantro and avocado with a hot chocolate tool. Feeling stupid about it one day, I started nosing around online and in cook shops. But (holy guacamole!) – a nice molcajete can cost $40.

Last summer, I happened to be shopping in a Fiesta supermarket in Austin, Texas, and found reasonably priced molcajetes for sale. That wasn't a huge surprise: A gentleman working in a restaurant supply had pointed me in that direction. What was a surprise was that Fiesta also sold the pestle part individually – for about three bucks! Eureka! But how silly I felt: Doing without something that could have been so easily and inexpensively obtained if I had just used my brain!

So now I have both parts – mismatched, to be sure – but I'm happy every time I see them together on my countertop.

So. The kid -- who just started in college this fall in Southern California – is  home for winter break, and what does he crave? My guacamole – every few days. Easily done. I'm going through avocados like they're going out of style.