Although Southerners have been eating ambrosia for well over a century, this dessert for too long departed from its light and bright origins and became a gloppy, obligatory salad weighed down by marshmallow fluff and languishing in the mid-day sun on many a picnic table during summer family reunions. In the beginning, ambrosia was meant to be a sweet but lighter counterpoint to heavier foods like fried chicken, casseroles, and potato salad, but somewhere along the way, we lost ourselves in a sea of pineapple tidbit-studded cool whip. Now we as a people have returned it to its original glory by making it more fruit-driven and subtly sweet.
This recipe for Ambrosia Meringue Trifles, which I chose for the Month of Simple Suppers Challenge, is so easy, it’s almost insulting. You can also substitute nearly every ingredient. Don’t have the time to make fresh whipped cream? Pick up a can of spray whipped cream. No judgment. Can’t find meringue cookies? I used to graham crackers. Don’t have a grapefruit on hand? You can really use any combination of citrus and tropical fruits from mandarin oranges to pineapple or even mango; as long as there’s coconut, we say it’s safe to call it ambrosia.