When Ambrosia Salad Spells Dread | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

When Ambrosia Salad Spells Dread

Play associated audio

Part of an ongoing series on unique holiday dishes

Daniel Davis, a tall, thin birch tree of a man, is willing to eat almost anything. Indeed, cooking and eating are two unadulterated pleasures in Dan's life. But he recently revealed to me, his wife, that there is one dish that, as a kid, he actually feared as Christmas drew near: ambrosia salad.

"Ambrosia salad" sounds like something really yummy. But Dan says that, every Christmas, when he and his family piled into the car for the long drive to his mother's family home in the mill town of Rumford, Maine, he knew what was waiting for him: green Jell-O mixed with Cool Whip, pineapples and cream cheese.

"It was the grossest looking and tasting thing ever. Ever," he says. "It was like eating a mouthful of something squishy and sugary and oddly rather airy. It was just electric green. What else more do I have to say?"

I needed to go to the source of Dan's Christmas pain. So I called my mother-in-law, Esther, to ask her if she knew that Dan just hated her Christmas ambrosia salad. She was shocked, which shocked Dan.

"I thought always I made it really clear that I didn't like it, and at least if by not saying it directly, it was never on my plate," he says.

It turns out that Esther called Dan's brother to ask what he thought of the dish.

Dan says, "I love the fact that he and I never talked about our dislike for the ambrosia salad but, you know, 30 years later, we both agree it was the worst thing ever."

So, of course we had to go to his mother's house to try it. When we arrived, she set to work, thinning out the cream cheese with the pineapple juice and folding in the Cool Whip and then the crushed pineapple. Finally, she added the crowning glory of green lime-flavored Jell-O and a festive smattering of red Maraschino cherries.

"It's very pretty," Esther says.

It took awhile, but we were finally able to cajole Dan into trying it — just to see if he still hated it.

"That terrifies me," Dan says when presented with a spoonful of his mom's ambrosia salad. "It looks like a Hitchcock film where the perspective shifts and everything's growing in size."

He eats it. The verdict? "Um, it's OK," he says generously, and then quickly reaches for a glass of water.

Like many of us, Dan has learned that the only way to get through Christmas is to ignore the red, white and green ambrosia salad jiggling next to the holiday ham and grin gamely.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Marvel's New Hero Wants To Save The World — And The Citrus Industry

Captain Citrus was sponsored by Florida's orange growers, whose profits are being hurt by disease and declining consumer demand for orange juice. They hope the comic character will boost sales.
NPR

Syrup Induces Pumpkin-Spiced Fever Dreams

Hugh Merwin, an editor at Grub Street, bought a 63-ounce jug of pumpkin spice syrup and put it in just about everything he ate for four days. As he tells NPR's Scott Simon, it did not go well.
NPR

Man Caught At White House Is An Army Veteran

Omar J. Gonzales, the 42-year-old man who the Secret Service says ran onto the White House grounds and entered a door Friday night, is an Army veteran who served in Iraq.
NPR

Drivers, Passengers Say Uber App Doesn't Always Yield Best Routes

People love Uber, but they often complain the Uber app's built-in navigation doesn't give its drivers the best directions. The company says the app helps drivers and passengers travel efficiently.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.