The last time I visited my mom in Southeastern Indiana, she told me that the Amish had dropped by a few days before and serenaded her with Christmas carols. They’d also left her a container of ambrosia, if I’d like to try some for dessert. Of course, the word ambrosia started spinning through my mind till I couldn’t even decide if I wanted dessert: Ambrosia. Ambrosia. Ambrosia. I liked how it fell from my lips as I pronounced it. Like a kiss. How did I know that word? Seemed like it had something to do with Greek mythology. So, I googled it, and sure enough:
In the ancient Greek myths, ambrosia (/æmˈbroʊʒə/, Ancient Greek: ἀμβροσία, “immortality”) is sometimes the food or drink of the Greek gods, often depicted as conferring longevity or immortality upon whoever consumed it. It was brought to the gods in Olympus by doves.
Mom was still waiting for my answer. “Well, do you want some, or not?” “Sure. Sounds intriguing.” I liked the idea of longevity and immortality; who wouldn’t? But, oh my, I could eat only a very small helping (maybe that’s all it would take for longevity and immortality); it was extremely rich and sweet. The Greek gods (and goddesses, I should hope!) must’ve tolerated sugar and thick cream better than I do. And miniature marshmallows! Perhaps they represented thick clouds, the heavens that seemed to be the dwelling place of gods. I didn’t copy the recipe that Google so helpfully provided, but I felt truly grateful to Mom’s Amish neighbors for their generosity of food and song, and for reminding me of the word ambrosia.
These past couple of weeks, the first days of January 2019, ambrosia has floated through my mind and fallen from my lips several times. Not because I’ve had a change of heart concerning the Amish dessert, but because of my very own pears. I’ve eaten three manifestations of pears from the fifteen-year-old pear tree in our garden since New Year’s Day, and I’m thinking: ambrosia. I’m sighing: ambrosia. I’m eating ambrosia—the food of the gods!
Our pear tree was so overloaded with fruit this year that limbs hung to the ground and a couple snapped from the weight. I forget how many five-gallon buckets of fallen pears we picked up off the ground, but it was so many that we didn’t mind leaving at least two or three buckets for the deer and other critters, and gladly gave two or three buckets to friends and family. Since we hadn’t tried any of the suggested organic treatments to deter the worms that cause rot from stem to stern, the pears were often too far gone to save by the time they were just right for eating. But even with the roadblocks to obtaining our own special ambrosia (they must’ve been thrown up by the demons from the underworld!), we froze, dried, and cooked into jam all the pears we cared to mess with. Believe me, it was a labor of love. Why else would I have worked at peeling, coring, and cutting away the rot of three dozen pears to end up with only two fat quart bags to put in the freezer at Mom’s one day last November? Then again, when she pulled a dish of baked pears out of her oven to share with me the next time I was there, I had no doubt that the labor was worthwhile.
And now here I am, beginning a new year, and still feasting on the fruits of my labor. One morning I put a couple handfuls of dried pears into water and boiled them a few minutes before adding the oats, cooking several minutes longer, then stirring in a little brown sugar and butter. Perfecto! Another morning, I pulled a thick slice of my daughter’s homemade bread from the handy sliced loaf in the freezer, toasted it, and smeared it with butter and, what I call, pear honey. To die for! Yesterday, I thawed out the pear cake I made last fall, and, following my husband’s lead this morning, enjoyed a generous slice with a cup of coffee. Gourmet breakfast! Surely the gods and goddesses didn’t eat any better than this! Surely they would declare our treasure of pears in the midst of winter ambrosia! And whether it increases our longevity or immortality, it certainly satisfies our souls and our taste buds. Ambrosia. Ambrosia. Ambrosia. Like tasty kisses in January.
Glenda Breeden for The Poplar Grove Muse