You know those food memories that swirl deep in your brain? I’ve got one for ambrosia. My grandparents used to make it every Christmas, a stripped-down version that included fresh orange and grapefruit sections, sliced bananas, shredded coconut and maraschino cherries. They left out marshmallows – I happily discovered that creamy version years later – and if nuts were included, I emphatically directed my spoon around them. In fact, I tended to avoid the grapefruit, too, in favor of the sweeter oranges, mild bananas and gaudy cherries. The way those flavors mixed with tropical coconut was a transformative diversion for picky kid weary of casseroles.
For the record, I’m a big fan of the mini-marshmallow.
One of my greatest food memories is cozying up to a marshmallow-y fruit salad — classic Southern ambrosia – that someone brought to my maternal grandfather’s after funeral gathering. I’ll never forget the way the baby marshmallows melted into the citrus juice, creating creamy goodness and a perfect comforting texture. I couldn’t stop eating it. Years later, I similarly fell in love with something called Green Stuff, a congealed cottage cheese and marshmallow fruit salad made by an old boyfriend’s mother and always served at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Yum. I love a bowl of trashy.
But as much as I savor marshmallows, and as much as I bow down to tradition, this year, I wanted an all-natural version of the classic holiday side….