Thursday, December 7, 2006

Ambrosia and the deathless ones

From Anu Garg's A.Word.A.Day:

ambrosia (am-BROE-zhuhuh) noun

1. In classical mythology, the food of the gods.
2. Something very pleasing to taste or smell.
3. A dessert made of oranges and shredded coconut.

[From Latin, from Greek ambrotos, from a- (not) + mbrotos (mortal). Ultimately from the Indo-European root mer- (to rub away or to harm) that is also the source of morse, mordant, amaranth, morbid, mortal, mortgage, and nightmare.]
The Greek gods of course, subsisting on their not-mortal food, are athanatoi, deathless or, literally, not-dead.

I cannot hear the word ambrosia without remembering a weird bit of dialogue from the old television series Hazel. It's been stuck in my head since childhood, "Mister B." speaking to Hazel (his maid): "Hazel, your sweet potato pie is sheer ambrosia!" Pies made from potatoes? Ambrosia? Maids? I remember as a kid thinking that here was a world I would never be part of.

Hazel and Mister B., available on DVD (and still perhaps in re-runs somewhere), are now among the deathless ones themselves.

comments: 1

Anonymous said...

My mother loves to remind me that in the early 1970s, when I was a kindergartener, Hazel was my favorite show on television. I'm sure I was too young to understand the concept of reruns, but I can't believe that I didn't realize that they represented a world far, far from any reality I'd ever experience.

But what really makes me uncomfortable is, why Hazel? Why not Ozzie & Harriet or Father Knows Best? Lucy? No, I loved my Hazel. Crazy.