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Constance Alexander: Once there were three siblings — but one grew up to make an ambrosia centerpiece

Of all the Alexander daughters, who would have thought Pamela would be the one? We’re talking about Pamela Jane, the middle child, known for secretly ordering six packs from the local liquor store and having them delivered to the house when the parents were out of town.

This is the Alexander sibling who bullied her compliant younger sisters into doing her after-dinner chores. Unbeknownst to the parents, she sneaked up the back stairs to chat on the phone while my sister Jeanne and I washed, dried, and put away the dishes without her. 

On weekends, Pammie, as our big brother sometimes needled her, had the amazing audacity to come home late and enter the house bellowing that Mother’s unreasonable curfews were ruining her social life. These pre-emptive strikes inevitably caused enough ruckus to awaken Daddy. As a result, the elders argued into the wee hours about conflicting parenting styles, and Pamela tiptoed blithely upstairs to her room, where she slept soundly until noon the next day.

Given the behavior of her teen years, who would have thought that Pamela, once she got married, would be transformed from family trouble-maker into Carol-bleepin’-Brady?

The new Pamela sewed gingham curtains for her kitchen; wore aprons that matched her oven mitt; baked and decorated birthday cakes for her kids in the shape of butterflies, ballerinas and giraffes.

A gracious hostess, she mastered gourmet cooking and whipped up exotic meals from faraway climes. Applying her own brand of Feng Shue to dinner parties, she sometimes removed the legs from her dining room table. Using pillows instead of chairs, she treated her guests to authentic culinary experiences that involved sitting on the floor and stabbing at their food with chopsticks.

Somehow, Pamela evolved into a Stepford sister, devising an array of homespun traditions for her own family, including a holiday recipe called ambrosia.

Her nieces and nephews lovingly renamed it, “Aunt Pam’s slop.”

Consisting of mandarin oranges, canned pineapple chunks, mini marshmallows, sour cream and shredded coconut, food of the gods it was not. Nevertheless, this treacly mishmash — sweet enough to make healthy gums recede and glucose levels skyrocket — was always in demand on holidays. 

When ribbed about her recipe, Pamela defended herself by saying her ambrosia beat the green bean and mushroom soup casserole with fake onion rings that was holiday fare for so many families. “I’ve been making my ambrosia for more than 40 years and the kids love it,” she still insists.

Admittedly, holiday meals would not be the same without it. Even the year she was recovering from surgery and facing a winter of chemotherapy, she managed to whip up a batch of ambrosia for Thanksgiving.

Today, the ritual continues. Of course, we still razz her about it, and I’m not sure anyone actually eats it, but the garish concoction makes a colorful centerpiece.

An array of ambrosia recipes is online at this website.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at calexander9@murraystate.edu. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

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