In the midst of a hurried week, I slowed down long enough to make a banana pudding. What began as a simple gift for a friend's child turned into an afternoon of slowing down, pondering, and remembering for me.
Homemade banana pudding is not something you throw together or make in a hurry. It's too easy to mess up the pudding, you just have to take your sweet time. And that's just what I did. I slowed down for the first time all week and enjoyed what I was doing (of course, that was after spending the first five minutes wondering what I was thinking when I said I would make two banana puddings in the midst of a crazy day).
As I placed the vanilla wafers, sliced the bananas, and constantly stirred the pudding, my mind flashed back to my grandma making pudding in her kitchen. I remembered how much care she would take slicing the bananas, making sure they weren't too thick. She placed the wafers in the dish - no broken ones please. She took her time cooking the pudding so it wouldn't scorch and she took great care with the meringue. I remember her pudding was delicious and beautiful, but mostly I just remember her hands placing those bananas carefully on top of each vanilla wafer.
As I stood in my kitchen that afternoon, pausing to remember my grandma, I realized that what was meant to be a gift for a friend had become a gift for me - time. I took the time to ponder a sweet memory, the time to enjoy making the pudding, the time to take great care.
And I must tell you that the gift was a hit and the child's face lit up like a Christmas tree when she realized that it was homemade banana pudding and it was for her. The expression on her face and the hug that followed were the best thank you I have received in a while.
So per the request of her mother I am including the recipe.
By the way, I made two puddings that day at the request of my kids. It's their favorite too.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups milk (whole or 2%)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp butter (not margarine)
4 egg yolks
box of vanilla wafers
4-5 ripe bananas
4 egg whites (room temperature)
5 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 375.
Line bottom of dish with wafers (I use an oval or round casserole dish, for 13x9 size, double the recipe).
Slice bananas and cover to keep from browning.
Combine sugar, flour, salt in bowl, and stir to mix well. Set aside. In separate bowl, combine milk and vanilla.
In heavy saucepan, beat egg yolks well. Over medium heat, add flour mixture to egg yolks alternately with milk and vanilla, stirring constantly. Bring to gentle boil. When pudding begins to thicken, add butter, continuing to stir until it reaches a nice pudding consistency. Remove from heat.
Place layer of bananas on top of wafers. Pour half the pudding over the bananas. Repeat with another layer of wafers, bananas, and the remainder of the pudding.
Beat egg whites at high speed until they form soft peaks. Add cram of tartar. Continue to beat at high speed adding sugar one tablespoon at a time until stiff peaks form. Fold vanilla into meringue. Spread the meringue over the pudding, sealing at sides of the dish.
Bake in preheated oven at 375 for 12-15 minutes until meringue browns. (I have never baked it this long. About eight minutes is usually good.)