Australia’s avo-gate: Analysing the events of the smashed avocado scandal of 2016

How did it all start?

Smashed avocados are the talk to the town, maybe even the talk of the country. Young Australians are reacting to Bernard Salt’s claims that Gen Y’s should be putting money aside for a house deposit rather than spending $22 a week on smashed avocados in hipster cafes.

The original story, written by economist and columnist Bernard Salt, comes from the perspective of a ‘Middle Aged Moraliser’ who is struggling to adapt to the hipster café climate.

The story takes a dig at the uncomfortable seating, small font sizes, and strange toilet signs often found in hipster cafes. Suggesting that the obstacles are deliberately introduced in order to keep the older generations at bay.

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The story was light-hearted, satirical, and it certainly acknowledged its own pretentiousness.

As a 25-year-old, Bachelor of Arts student living in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, I can say that the article as a whole caused me no offence, but I can understand the cause of uproar when media outlets are only reporting one out of context quote…

“I have seen young people order smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop and more. I can afford to eat this for lunch because I am middle aged and have raised my family. But how can young people afford to eat like this? Shouldn’t they be economising by eating at home? How often are they eating out? Twenty-two dollars several times a week could go towards a deposit on a house.”

Soon enough, the short story was blown completely out of proportion.

Younger generations were disgusted at the thought of sacrificing their much loved smashed avocado on sourdough toast in order to put money towards a house deposit.

To make things worse, this story was coming from the perspective of a baby boomer – who Gen Y’s blame for the catastrophic state of the current housing market.

This one paragraph caused national uproar and multiple news outlets were posting articles claiming Salt’s accusations were genuine social commentary from an economist. In fact, this was certainly the most common angle of the story.

The Gen Ys went mad with fury, attacking Salt’s twitter page, and blaming the baby boomers for the housing market issues.

There were other witty articles, praised by Salt himself, for acknowledging the situation and the subject as being a humorous one, and not being based around an out-of-context paragraph.

Nevertheless, the brunt of articles quoting Salt refer to his accusations as being much bolder than the story as a whole suggests.

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There were some interesting articles that fact-checked Salt’s claims, finding out whether the $22 saved could set millennials on their way to house deposits.

Yes, $22 several times a week could go towards a house deposit, but the real mystery is, why aren’t young Australians inspired to save for houses anymore? And why is smashed avocado so commonly used as an anthem for the hipster generation?

Of course most people dream of owning their own home, but when it comes down to it, millennial are acknowledging that that prospect is becoming increasingly unlikely.

What’s the deal with smashed avocado?

I’d like to consider Melbourne’s northern suburbs to be the birth place of the smashed avocado.

Going hand in hand with a soy latte, smashed avos are appreciated by most Australians, but most commonly noted, by the younger generations.

For your convenience, I have compiled a map and list of a selection of smashed avocado vendors in Thornbury, a suburb of Melbourne’s north.

Clicking on the icon to the left of the title will show you a list of the cafes, and clicking on each cafe name will give you a description and price of their smashed avocado offering.

The news of Salt’s accusations caused a number of cafes to heavily discount their smashed avocado dishes.

Little Big Sugar Salt in Melbourne’s Abbotsford, changed the price AND the name of their smashed avocado offering, now called The Retirement Plan – a simplified version, offering avocado, Vegemite and tomato on toast for only $10.

Sounds like a pretty good deal.

UberEATS is ran a promo dishing out free smashed avocados for first time users in major cities. Which means the hipsters don’t even have to leave their houses!

I assume the promotion will help cure the cravings of all the millennial who are fed up of seeing delicious smashed avos all over their news feeds over the past week.

Check out this suggested post, a targeted advertisement which appeared in my Facebook feed:

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Smashed avocados are certainly a hot topic. Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson brought up the debate in the Senate, with his own prop avocado, acknowledging the humorousness of the accusation.

“Have you managed to upgrade your advice for the price of smashed avocado in this country? Do you agree with Bernard Salt that young Australians are spending too much money on $22 smashed avocado at cafes rather than saving to invest for a house?”, Which-Wilson asked at a Senate estimates hearing.

Will passing on a smashed avo, actually help me afford a house?

It would take approximately 6,800 smashed avocados at $22 a pop to make up a $150,000 home deposit.

That means that if you ate smashed avocado 4 times a day, it would take you 5 years to have spent $150,000.

That also means that if I saved $80 a day (which is inconceivable for me as a student) it would still take me 5 years to save $150,000 for a house deposit.

Even at half that rate, saving $40 a day would still take me 10 years before affording a house deposit!

If you pass on a smashed avo and instead order something else on the menu, you’ll probably be worse off.

From what I can gather from research for the map of avocado dish prices in Thornbury, they are usually the cheapest meal on the menu, and that Salt’s claim that the meal costs $22 is a little over the top.

Perhaps that says more about where Bernard Salt goes out for brunch than anything else…

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If you absolutely have to go out to that hipster cafe, then smashed avocado isn’t such a bad choice, of course, if you can handle the side of stigma.

For most young Australians, the prospect of saving for a house is scary and unlikely, and it’s hard to understand that a sacrifice of a hard-earned, instantly gratifying smashed avocado could actually eventuate into something down the track.

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Lauren Angeli a property manager for a real estate company in the northern suburbs believes that the majority of young people look straight into the rental market before seeking options for buying property.

“Most young Australians grow up dreaming of buying their own home, but its only a reality for some, and it’s getting harder and harder” Ms Angeli says, while discussing Australia’s housing bubble.

“While its common for young people to save for years for a house deposit, it’s getting harder for younger people to get their savings started, because they need to spend all their money on living expenses and rent.”

In all honesty, Bernard Salt’s story (albeit blown out of proportion) does contain an important message for us young Australians.

It shows us the turmoil of ageing, and not feeling comfortable in ones surroundings, and feeling unable to control the world around you.

Just like the middle-aged character who is struggling to read the menu, we Gen Y’s are struggling to understand our place in the housing market, and whether we will ever have a place.

It’s an important lesson to learn from those who have been on this Earth for twice long as we have. It’s a lesson in sacrifice and gratification.

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While it would be nice to analyse the housing market, GDP, bank loans, and avocado prices, this article is attempting to focus more on the personal implications of Salt’s claims, societies reactions to eating avocados, and why the story was important in the first place.

If you’re interested in an in-depth avocado analysis, here are a few good ones:

The Facts About Houses and Avocados (or, why Bernard Salt is an Arrogant $#^&@&$), by Matt Ellis

Baby Boomers Have Already Taken all the Houses, Now They’re Coming for our Brunch, by Brigid Delaney

Are Millennials Actually bad at Saving or are Houses Just Unaffordable?, by Nick Evershed

All original photos taken at my favourite hipster cafe Jerry Joy, located at 128 Mansfield Street, Thornbury.

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