Ambrosia Salad

Incident at work tonight: I was teaching a writing class and we’re doing descriptive writing. Now, I’ve seen the materials at the level of ESL these girls are doing, and, quite franky, it’s bollocks. They don’t have any sophistocated adjectives yet, and getting them to make their own is like pulling teeth.

Solution: I bring in some of my personal photographs. I don’t tell the kids who these people are, but they have to describe the scene, in the context of what they think is happening, and then relate what happened to the ‘characters’ the day the picture was taken. It sounds ambitious, I know, but it captures their imaginations far better than “Describe your bedroom” does. Especially since they’ve all done that about three times before they’ve even been in Canada a year.

So student N hands in her draft, about a photo I took more than a decade ago, of Jenny, Pia and Mac sitting in Jenny’s backyard, drinking and talking.

N has turned Jenny into her Protagonist, and Jenny has (allegedly) decided to have a picnic with her friends. Jenny goes to Safeway (in the draft) and comes home with Chicken Caesar salad, English Muffins, Snapple, and Ambrosia Salad.

“Ambrosia salad?” I look at N.
“Yeah, you know, it has the marshmallows in it.”
I giggle, because I can’t help it. “Ambrosia salad is disgusting.” I think for a minute. “Um, N, is it…White People food?”
She giggles a little as well. “Koreans don’t eat it.”
(Of course not, I think. Marshmallows in Jello, with, oh, say, celery and maraschino cherries? I don’t think so.)
“N, Ambrosia salad is, like, Old People food. Have you ever seen anyone under the age of fifty buying it?”
“My ESL Teacher says it’s delicious,” She protests. Her turn to think. “But she’s about sixty.”

The problem is that White People Food (they call it Canadian Food) is largely a mystery to your average Korean International student. And their moms, actually. They know there’s stuff that goes on bread, and stuff that goes in sandwiches. This means that, for politeness’ sake, I have eaten a butter-and-mayo baguette, a cinnamon-raisin breakfast bagel (egg and cheese within), and a peanut butter, lettuce, and ham sandwich. Bleurgh. But what am I supposed to say? “You’re learning my culinary culture wrong.”? How could I?

No one’s served me Ambrosia Salad. Yet.

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