From the time I was a little girl our holiday dinners always included a bowl of “Ambrosia.” Ambrosia is a luscious dish made from fresh oranges, coconut, maraschino cherries, and chopped pecans. I could eat my weight in this delightful concoction.
There are many versions of ambrosia, but the one I liked best was just the 4 ingredients listed above. Sometimes it has sour cream and marshmallows added to it, but I like it plain. I like to taste the oranges.
When I was a child, my grandmother was the one who went to all the trouble to make it. I say trouble, because you have to peel and section the oranges, removing all the membrane and, of course, the seeds. I was not aware of how much time and effort this took and I was oblivious to the amount of love that went into making this simple looking dish.
When I was an adult with my own kitchen and in charge of my own holiday dinners, I was the one who had to section all those oranges. It was not a job that I enjoyed. It was messy, and sticky and labor intensive. I was too impatient to stand there and prepare those oranges.
The rest of the dish is a piece of cake — you just dump in a jar of cherries, open a bag of coconut and measure out two cups, and pour in some chopped pecans. Voila, you have ambrosia.
As much as I love this dish, I rarely make it for the aforementioned reason. That is why I will always remember the Thanksgiving that my dad wandered into the kitchen and asked if he could help. He came at just the right time and I handed him a large bag of oranges and a knife. He rolled up his sleeves and got busy.
Daddy whistled while he worked. He never groaned or complained about how many oranges were left in the bag (like I always did). He just smiled, and peeled, and sectioned, and filled the bowl. When he was done there was orange juice all over the counter and all the way down his arms to his elbows. But he never stopped smiling.
I love this image of my father, because when I think back to my early years, I don’t ever remember him being in the kitchen much. In fact I can never remember him cooking at all except when we went camping. Then he would pull out his Coleman stove and make fried biscuits or cowboy pie. He had lots of experience cooking in the woods.
It was seeing him stand in my kitchen peeling oranges that made me feel so loved. He was doing that for me and doing it without a whisper of complaint. I am not sure I have made ambrosia many times since then. Daddy died not long after that, and he has not been around to wander into the kitchen to ask if he can help. But anytime I do make it, I always remember that time, and it makes me smile. I try to peel the oranges without complaining, just as he did.