Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Food of the Gods

 It all started when someone mentioned marshmallows and I said, “Like in Ambrosia salad.”


Marshmallows in salad?  What on earth could that be about?  I explained to my Dutch friends that we in America have this weird thing called “Ambrosia salad” that is served at a barbecue along with other side dishes in spite of the fact that every single ingredient in the thing is really a dessert item:  coconut, fruit, marshmallows, (sometimes) Cool Whip.  Well, they thought that was weird as hell.  I went on to explain that the other thing about Ambrosia is that when you bring it out to the table everyone moans and groans and makes “yuck” sounds, but that it’s always the first bowl to be emptied.


“I’ll make it for you while I’m here.”




I figured an Independence Day picnic was as good a time as any, and it would give me an excuse to have an American-type event on a day when I might feel myself missing out on the fun back home.


Sophie promptly invited everyone to the big July 7th party, which was quickly clarified as being the big July 4th party and our plans got underway.


Since I am the only one of the three of us who would know what to put on a July 4th menu, I took care of the whole thing.  Nothing unusual:  hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans, 3-bean salad, Jell-o with fruit cocktail, macaroni-tuna salad, baked ziti, grilled chicken, potato salad, corn-on-the-cob and, for starters, deviled eggs, sour cream-onion dip and cream cheese slathered in Heinz 57.  Patrick volunteered his fabulous coleslaw and I thought I’d also make a tray of Rice Krispie treats to bring out after.  And, the main attraction of the day, Ambrosia.  Y’know; things served in one variation or another at virtually every 4th of July picnic across the country, 


Amazingly, the only ingredient I was unable to find at any of the three supermarkets (“super”… hah!) here on the island was wax beans, so I substituted  chick peas.  And everyone says the ground beef is pretty dreadful so we figured, just skip the burgers altogether.


The rest was pretty simple:  make the stuff.  Done.


Patrick and Sophie would wander through the kitchen and look at the menu in progress like I was cooking up yak or monkey brains.  Corn-on-the-cob they knew from, but everything else was completely… foreign to them. 


There have been a couple of culinary differences we’ve noted during my visit here on Saba. Pat and Sop (and all their friends) think the combination of peanut butter and jelly borders on the grotesque.  Yet, one of their great afternoon treats (also, like PB & J, a carryover from childhood) is—hold on to your hat, Mildred—a piece of white bread spread nice and thick with butter and then covered with chocolate sprinkles.  I kid you not.  (They have another name for the sprinkles--hackenslack or kockenlocker or radzkiwadzki or something--and when you say it in public Dutch eyes light up brighter than a party boat plying an Amsterdam canal. But sprinkles they is and sprinkles I call’s 'em.)


I put out the cream cheese/Heinz 57 and sour cream-and-onion dip along with some crackers when the guests started to arrive.  It really seemed like people were actually afraid to try them.  After some coaxing I had a few takers.  The reviews were mixed:  some folks dug the dip while others loved the cream cheese.  And some really hated one or the other.  The deviled eggs, though, were a sensation.  Deviled eggs!  Go figure. 


The grill was fired up and the chicken and dogs were tossed on the grate.  During a trip from the kitchen with a plate of chicken thighs, one of the four--count 'em four--iguanas hanging out by the steps made a move and followed me almost to the grill.  I don't care if they are vegetarian, that's weird.


The bowls and trays and plates of food were brought out and a crowd formed.  The other two Americans at the party squealed in recognition and appreciation of food from home.  “Ain’t the Fourth of July without Ambrosia!” was one remark.  Hungry people are hungry people regardless of nationality; plastic plates (to be burned at the dump later in the week, no doubt) were quickly filled and folks got down to business.


The reviews were uniformly terrific.  Some things surprised me: the macaroni salad was barely touched while the baked beans disappeared.  The 3-bean salad sat unloved and mostly untried while the pasta was declared a revelation.  Even by the Italian couple staying in Turtle Cottage.


But I knew I was dealing with a bunch of fur’ners when someone held out a hot dog in a bun and asked, “What are you supposed to put on it?”  Wow.


Oh, and the Ambrosia?  True to my prediction it was greeted with grimaces and cat-calls but it quickly vanished from the bowl and the recipe was requested by several people.


There were no fireworks, no John Philip Sousa, no stars-and-stripes and no gossip and conjecture about Sarah Palin’s resignation.  None of the elements that would have made the day really feel like I was home.  But what there was, was Ambrosia.  


God bless the U.S. of A.





  1. Sounds delicious! I recently tried to buy some Ambrosia salad at Pathmark or Shop Rite and the folks there gave me the weirdest stares like they didn't know what I was talking about. I guess they stopped making it in the deil departments like I used to remember and I lack the skills to make it myself. It's funny how you've taken on the role of American Ambassador of Culture and Culinary Delights on Saba. Please continue carrying out your duties Sir your doing a fine job of it!

  2. Well, Tom, I made it half way through this entry before I found myself having to wander out to my kitchen to start something... I can assure you that I will never match the culinary heights you are capable of achieving, but hopefully, it will all be edible...

    Additionally, you, sir, may be the head chef of any party I may host in the future... Job well done. Bravo!

  3. You must have been a gastronomical whirling dervish in that kitchen. Holy Iguana Batman! I'm wondering if the four-legged chicken follower was just making sure it wasn't one of his friends (I expect they taste like chicken after all). URGH! Not about to find out!

    I have a German friend who when she first arrived in Canada thought deviled eggs were "devile-ed (long "i" eggs") kinda makes sense actually. I never see one without thinking of that.

    Sounds like you not only have fun where ever you go but create it. Absolutely the way to go!

  4. Considering that in Amsterdam, instead of hot dog stands they have raw herring stands, your story makes perfect sense to me. And to be in a place where Sarah Palin doesn't exist. I think I'm most jealous of you for that.

  5. Looks like it was quite a party.

    I gotta admit that Deviled Eggs are quite the bomb. However, being from the West Coast, Ambrosia was never on too many menus.

    Well, if the remodeling doesn't work out, there's always a culinary career you can fall back on.

  6. I never grew up with Ambrosia salad in my humble NJ suburb so it remains alien and unappealing to me. I've also never liked three-bean salad or jello with fruit cocktail (plain, please) but I know that's just me.

    But deviled eggs are a no-brainer. I've never seen them not vanish at any function at which they are served.

    The only menu items that seemed odd to me were the rigatoni (at a BBQ, really?) and the cream cheese with the Heinz 57, which I've never heard of.

  7. Why shouldn't the Deviled Eggs have been a hit? They are TEH AWESOME! Unless you put relish or pickle juice in them, in which case they are Of The Devil.

  8. Ambrosia salad has two of the things on my top five most disgusting foods list: marshmallows and coconut. Ick. I've never been a fan, but I'm glad it was a big hit, there!

    And I've never heard of the 57 and cream cheese thing either. I've lived in Chicagoland all my life, when they ask what to put on a hotdog, my immediate response is EVERYTHING.

  9. The sprinkles are actually called hagelslag. Make sure to spray plenty of Chloraseptic before saying it. But that'll kill the taste of the hagelslag, won't it? Now here's where it gets even ickier (that word's not Dutch, just looks it), it seems some Dutch prefer mayonnaise to butter on their hagelslag sandwiches. And some prefer cream cheese. Hmmm, I wonder how a cream cheese/Heinz 57/hagelslag dip would work? Good excuse to return to Saba next summer.

  10. Wow!! sounds delicious a marshmallows in a salad

    Hmmm Food of the Gods, you mean that marshmallows

    Well I like it, sounds interesting. I have also a blog
    Food of the Gods.