Even Avocados Aren’t Safe from ‘Adam Ruins Everything’
If the farm-to-table movement has taught us anything, it’s that each ingredient on our plate has a story, a journey, and people behind it. Sometimes that history is as simple as Farmer Fran picked her own squash and sold it to you at the farmers market. Other times your produce has a complex, politically entwined, and occasionally nefarious path to your supermarket. So if you’ve been blissfully buying avocados without wondering what kind of nefarious associations they might have to international crime organizations, we’re sorry to say Adam Ruins Everything is about to rain on your produce parade.
Hosted by comedian Adam Conover, Adam Ruins Everything puts a humor-filled spin on “ruining” a variety of subjects, from fact-checking the first Thanksgiving to debunking the notion that technologies like Amazon’s Alexa exist to serve the greater good. Okay, “ruin” is a strong word. What the truTV series aims to do is peel back the layers of and expose the uncomfortable truths behind products, concepts, and history lessons we often take for granted.
In an upcoming episode, the focus isn’t just avocados, but the whole plate o’ nachos. That’s not some obscure expression — the episode is literally about a plate of nachos, broken down ingredient by ingredient. In the preview clip below provided exclusively to Food & Wine, we see a portion of the avocado segment that links imported avocados from Mexico (you know, the ones with the catchy jingle) to Mexican drug cartels. Sorry in advance, guac fans.
I emailed Conover to find out more about how he and his writers came across the link between avocados and drug trafficking and what he hopes you take away from watching Adam Ruins Everything.
Adam Campbell-Schmitt: How do you choose topics to "ruin" on your show? What led you to avocados?
Adam Conover: Our writer’s room has an open pitch process. Any writer, researcher, or other staffers can pitch an idea — if it shocks the rest of the room and holds up under scrutiny, it goes up as an index card on our corkboard. In this case, the idea that drug cartels have infiltrated the avocado trade to such an extent that a measurable amount of the money you spend in the grocery store ends up in their coffers was truly mind blowing. So it was a strong candidate from the start.
ACS: How did you land on this episode's ingredient-by-ingredient approach to dissecting nachos? Is this "single dish examined" format something you're looking to apply to other foods?
AC: This is actually a funny story. We had quite a few food stories on the board, but weren’t sure how to put them together. One day, our senior researcher Sam Roudman made homemade nachos for the office. (A specialty of his.) While we were all chowing down, he pointed at the corkboard and pointed out that we had stories for each Nacho ingredient. (There was some discussion about whether or not bacon is a “nacho ingredient”, but since part of the point of the bacon meme is people adding bacon to surprising foods—“Everything’s better with bacon!”—we decided it fit.) With that, we realized we had our episode structure!
ACS: Because food is extremely relatable and often personal, do you find it to be a particularly hot topic? Are reactions to food episodes or segments different than other categories you've covered?
AC: I think that people are more eager to learn about food than almost every other topic. We have a more intimate relationship with food than with almost anything else we buy, so people are with very good reason concerned about the real story behind what they eat. As a result, food stories are some of the most popular pieces we do.
ACS: Food purchases seem to be one of the easiest ways we can, so to speak, vote with our dollars. Do you think boycotts or, uh, whatever the opposite of boycotts are (buy-ins?) are effective or do these issues need solutions on a more macro/political level?
AC: Our message at the end of the episode is that buying the “right food” is not the solution to our food problems. These are systemic issues. The brutal fact is that which foods are available in your grocery store is determined by trade wars, agriculture policy, and the outsized power wielded by large corporations. There’s no “good avocado” to buy that’s going to solve those problems. As a result, we should take all the energy we waste worrying we’re not shopping right, and instead funnel it into being politically active, and advocating for the systemic, broad-based changes that will actually make healthy, affordable, and ethically produced food available to all Americans.
ACS: Do you think it's millennials who created the avocado obsession, or rather the lifting of the trade ban that allowed avocado mania to sweep the nation? Who can we blame??
AC: Millennials have taken the rap for this for a long time; but the truth is, according to America’s avocado growers, baby-boomers actually consume the most avocados! And the real reason for the avocado craze is that the opening of US agricultural trade with Mexico resulted in the green globes flooding the American market. (And which eventually resulted in the drug cartels involvement in the avocado trade.) So I’ll just take this as one more opportunity to shout from the rooftops: “Hey, old people! Stop blaming millennials for everything!"
ACS: Is the goal behind ARE to spark change, foster conversation, or just set the record straight (or none of those)?
AC: All three! Our hope is to educate our audience and encourage them to think more critically — and, of course, to make them laugh in the process!
The "Adam Ruins a Plate of Nachos" episode of “Adam Ruins Everything” airs Tuesday, January 8 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on truTV.
Update: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the upcoming episode as the season three premiere.