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Varmint

Banana Pudding

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Banana pudding is a staple on the menu of nearly all down-home Southern restaurants, including barbecue joints. Unfortunately, many, if not most, places have started to use instant pudding to which they add some sliced bananas and Nilla Wafers®. This is a very sad thing indeed.

Banana pudding should be rich and eggy, topped with meringue not less than 4 inches high! Any low-fat version of banana pudding should be banned. Use cornstarch as a thickener if you must, but the egg yolks are what should give the pudding its lusciousness. And yes, I like the Nilla Wafers® -- no other vanilla wafer will do!

What do you do with your banana pudding? Where have you found the best example of this fine dessert?


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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OK, now you've done it! Craving in motion. Someone better bring a huge tray of banana pudding to the pigfest!

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I've had two standout banana puddings that I can think of. When I first moved to NC my new boss decided I needed to be educated culinarily. So the second weekend I was here he drove me out to Lexington to try 'cue. (after having Allen & Son's, Lexington is now a disappointment for me). He picked up an extra couple of pounds and made Brunswick stew for lunches the next week.

Following this his wife made banana pudding for him to bring me. (Oh so lucky was I) It was excellent. She hadn't done the meringue thing, substituting lightly sweetened whipped cream because according to her meringue is the wintertime topping for b.p., and because she was worried that the meringue would get a little leathery after sitting in the fridge for a day or two.

The second was at Allen & Son's. They usually have excellent b.p., but a few months ago I had some of a new batch, so the pudding was a little cool and the meringue was still warm... nirvana.

My feelings are, the wafers need to still have a little tooth to them. Ideally so do the bananas. And the trick with the pudding is to give it some thickness without it getting gluey.

My trick to homemade banana pudding is to ask my wife really nicely to make it, and I frequently make a pathetic attempt to justify it as a "healthy fruit" dessert.

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My secret is somewhat shameful -- I've NEVER liked banana pudding. There, I feel better now... :smile:


Those who do not remember the pasta are doomed to reheat it.

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My secret is somewhat shameful -- I've NEVER liked banana pudding.  There, I feel better now... :smile:

The horror . . . the horror.


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Varmint, it looks like the Nabisco recips is vanilla pudding with banana slices? Is that what banana pudding really is? :sad:

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I think the secret of banana pudding is that there's no real secret. I've seen, and tried, a few different recipes: none has varied all that much, and all of them have been at least pretty good. The key is that it's a dish that rewards time and care: if you skimp on ingredients or preparation at any point, Lady Banana Pudding will turn her face from you in dismay.

Make sure you use lots of egg yolks. Commit the time to standing at the stove, stirring the custard as it gently thickens. Neglect not the meringue. (I recognize that some people make it with whipped cream, and I won't argue with that, but for the love of Jeebus don't profane the pudding with Cool Whip!) Resist the urge to serve immediately; instead, let it slowly mellow, introducing the wafers to the pudding, starting a conversation with the banana until they become something close to a Unified Banana Pudding Entity.

This need for care is probably why banana pudding seems to work best when made in small batches. In general, the worst pudding I've had has been in restaurants (Allen and Son is a notable exception, and there are others, of course.) Lots of times they'll skimp on the meringue, or the pudding will have the telltale chemical taste of packaged pudding mix. Begone, foul puddings!

On the other hand, the best banana puddings I've had have always been homemade. (I'll be so bold as to include my own in this group). It's gotta be made with patience, care and love.

I think I know what's for dessert tonight...

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Varmint, it looks like the Nabisco recips is vanilla pudding with banana slices?  Is that what banana pudding really is? :sad:

It's that, but it's more than that. As it sits in the fridge, the pudding undergoes an alchemical transformation, as the pudding and bananas and wafers start coming together, joining their textures and flavors. Much more than the sum of its parts...

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OK, I had to bring up Southern Culture on the Skids' song, "Banana Pudding." Here's a few choice lines from that song that emphasizes the importance of the aging process:

I want somethin good and sweet to eat

Something that's easy on the gums and teeth

. . . . . .

it takes a little time to develop the flavor

to soak it all up with your vanilla wafer

. . . . . . . . . . .

yeah it's day old and bold baby

so give me somethin funky with the skin on top

. . . . . . . . . .

give me that day old banana puddin

I really must find a way to get these guys to play at my pig pickin'.


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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So Andrew, you're tellin me that if I eat around the bananas, the pudding will still be bananay?

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Let me put it this way: if you don't like bananas, you aren't gonna want to go near it. The banananess will sneak up on you and getcha, no matter which way you turn.

Occasionally I think about making a chocolate version, with chocolate pudding and chocolate wafers. (And maybe substituting some other sort of fruit; not sure what would be best.) But then I think, that'd just be too much, y'know?

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That wasn't what I asked. 

Sorry. Let's see if this works better...

Yeah, the banana flavor infuses the pudding. But the thing is- and this is what confused me about your question- you can't really eat around the bananas. (I suppose you could pick them out, but I think they'd kind of fall apart.) It all sort of becomes one.

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It just doesn't sound like banana pudding. It sounds like vanilla pudding with sliced bananas in it.

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No, vanilla pudding with sliced bananas is vanilla pudding with sliced bananas. The (brief) baking process and (long) aging process turns banana pudding into a completely different product.

I suppose there's some terminology confusion with the word "pudding" here: the pudding in banana pudding is closer to the British use of the word than the American.

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Straying in from the India discussion forums, I'm half Malayali, from the southern Indian state of Kerala where bananas are important. Banana chips, often fresh fried off the roadside, are a common snack, fried bananas a teatime treat and the fresh ones area savoured in their different types and sizes: small sweet finger bananas, fat little bananas said to taste of cardamom, big ones that are green yet ripe inside, others that look all yellow and mottled and overripe when in fact that's when they are at their best, and above all, the really extraordinary looking red bananas with their heavily sweet taste.

Among all these bananas, my favourite way of eating them was a very basic banana pudding we'd sometimes get as kids if the remains of dinner had the required ingredients. My mother called it generically Kerala pudding or by a Malayali name, pappadam pallam which means poppadums and bananas. It was made very simply by mashing some bananas, ideally almost over ripe with a fork, then mixing in some boiled rice left over from dinner and sugar and a little ghee. Finally four or five poppadums, these are the crisp fried golden South Indian ones (NOT roasted North Indian ones), are smashed up and the crisp crumbs sprinkled over the banana mush and that was it.

Its really a nursery pudding which is probably why I remember it so lovingly, but I also think its very simply bliss. Ripe mushy bananas with rice for body and ghee and sugar for added richness and finally poppadums for a contrast in texture... banana flavoured bliss.

Vikram

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I'm half Malayali, from the southern Indian state of Kerala where bananas are important.

And thus, this is "southern" food. :wacko:

That sounds fantastic. Thanks so much.


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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The famed Belle Meade Buffet Cafeteria (superb meat-n-three) in Nashville, Tennessee, makes a wonderful banana pudding from scratch. I grew up eating it every week because I had the good liuck to attend a private day school in Nashville whose dining hall was catered by Belle Meade Buffet. Lunch at school was served family style at round tables each seating eight students and one teacher. One of my best taste- memories is of the bowl of banana pudding being passed around and getting to spoon out a serving on my plate. The bananas were ripe and fragrant, the nilla wafers well-moistened and soft, and the vanilla pudding just a little runny and laced with frothy meringue. We kids used to make fun of how the pudding was "snotty," but we all loved it.

Now I make an identical banana pudding at home, to replicate this taste-memory, from a recipe in the cookbook _A Gracious Plenty_ (ed. John T. Edge). The recipe uses flour not cornstarch as the thickener. The cornstarch version is too smooth for me; I think the pudding should be essentially rustic. I like the banans firm and not too ripe, the nilla wafers well-soaked in the pudding, definitely meringue on top and *not* whipped cream, and it all served just a little warm -- bliss!

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Belle Meade Cafeteria still puts out good food, just watch out for all the blue-hairs attempting to cross the parking lot...


Those who do not remember the pasta are doomed to reheat it.

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My secret is somewhat shameful -- I've NEVER liked banana pudding.  There, I feel better now... :smile:

I have to agree. I can live without banana pudding. First pimento cheese and now banana pudding. If we have to talk about stereotypical Southern food, lets stick to the Q and grits.

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You probably don't like collards, chittlin's, pot likker, or red-eye gravy, either.


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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