Monday, November 10, 2008

Mockingbird and Ambrosia Salad: Who'd a thunk?

One of the pleasures of reading Mockingbird was becoming re-acquainted with ambrosia salad.

When a family member says they will be bringing ambrosia to a party or event, chances are they are talking about a popular salad that generally contains oranges, pineapple chunks, grapes, cocoanut and nuts. Some versions contain marshmallows, whipping cream, or sour cream while other recipes contain fruit cocktail, grapefruit or vanilla pudding. It’s a salad with plenty of options.

To the ancient Greeks, ambrosia has had many meanings too. Though researchers are not certain what the ancient Greeks thought the composition of ambrosia was (or its liquid counterpart “nectar”), it is believed that these mythical foods had some connection to honey.

In ancient Greek mythology, ambrosia gives immortality to those who consume it. Ambrosia also was guaranteed to satisfy the hunger or thirst of the residents of Mount Olympus. It was said that ambrosia was delivered to the gods by sacred doves.

There are several examples in Greek myth in which ambrosia is used by the gods and goddesses as a sort of balm, indicating the conference of to confer grace or even immortality (in the case of mortals) onto the recipient. When Achilles is born, Thetis anoints the infant with ambrosia and passes the child through the fire to make him immortal. In the Iliad, Apollo washes blood from the corpse of Sarpedon and anoints it with ambrosia, readying it for its ethereal return to Sarpedon's home of Lycia. Later, the sea-nymph Thetis uses ambrosia and nectar to preserve the body of the dead warrior Patroclus.

Making ambrosia involves no cooking, just mixing. Start with a very basic recipe, such as the one below.

· 1 cup orange juice
· 3 medium oranges, peeled and sectioned
· 1 can (8 ounces) pineapple chunks, undrained
· 1/2 cup seedless red grapes, halved
· 1/2 cup shredded coconut
· 1/2 cup chopped pecans


Combine juice, orange sections, pineapple, and grapes, stirring gently to blend. Refrigerate until time to serve. Fold in coconut and pecans just before serving.This recipe serves six people.