I never dreamed I would see the day when I could eat cake and pie and ice cream and cookies and banana pudding everyday… if I want to; however, to me, eating sweets on a regular basis takes the “special” out of them. During those economically poor years of my childhood, whenever we ate sweets, they were indeed special. And because of our infrequent eating of sweet stuff, I didn’t have to worry about getting too much cavity and obesity causing sugar in my system. The fact that we didn’t have money for desserts everyday took care of that. Cakes and other “sweet tooth” goodies were few and far between, but on Sundays, Dad went out of his way to reward us with an extra special treat to top off our week.
It was a tradition in poor families to eat their sweets on church day… Well, at least it was with ours. And of all the sweets in the world, banana pudding was a regular with us. I doubt that a weekend passed when we didn’t have this much-loved and much-looked-forward-to, beyond-delicious, mouth-watering dessert. Since it wasn’t a habit to eat sweets during the week, Sunday afforded us the opportunity to share the sweetness of the day, as well as the sweetness of a sugar-laden dessert.
Mother was the cook, but on Sundays Dad always whipped up his favorite “Christmas pudding” of the week. Back in the day, a banana pudding was a BANANA PUDDIN’. Without boasting, I think I can honestly say that Dad made the best ‘Nana pudding in the whole wide world. It was so good that even my taste buds said, “Right-On.” Perhaps the country eggs and fresh cow butter gave it that extra kick but, be that as it may, I still say that Dad was the genius behind the pudding. So, as you might guess, not only did I look forward to church on Sundays, but I also looked forward to dinner after church.
Most country folks didn’t eat boxed cake mix or other store-bought desserts. At least, we didn’t. We made ours from scratch. The flavoring, flour and sugar were store bought. But for his Sunday Special, Dad did use the creamy, evaporated, pet milk. It is richer, thicker, tastier, and a little more suitable for the wafers than the lighter-textured cow milk. The brown, hen-hatched, country eggs and the real (organic) cow butter made that pudding, umm, umm, lip-smacking good.
The ingredients (eggs, milk, butter, flavor, and sugar) were mixed by hand. The eggs were beaten with the biggest spoon in the kitchen, which takes an extra labor of love. Otherwise, it is a hard, tedious, boring job, but Dad did that part too. After those initial preparations, he took those tasty vanilla wafers and almost-too-ripe banana slices and placed them alternatively on top of each other until they were all gone. Today, there are tons of “knock-offs,” but back then, I only remember Nabisco wafers, which, in my opinion, still make the best banana pudding.
The filling is cooked on top of the stove and stirred continually so it doesn’t stick or burn. When the mixture was well done, but not too thick, Dad slowly poured that hot concoction over those little, round, brown, sweet, crunchy wafers and overly-ripe bananas. The creamy liquid oozed slowly between the wafers and bananas like white, hot lava flowing over mountains, interspersed with valleys.
Like spectators at some big-time sporting event, we sat there watching Dad while drooling over that pudding, more than anxious to chow down, but we had to hold our horses. Dad was never in a hurry, and even at this point, the “Prize” pudding of the week was not ready yet. The stove was blasting, even in summertime, when Dad very carefully took that long, rectangular pan and slowly slid it into that toasty, hot oven. We licked our lips… top and bottom, knowing it wouldn’t be long before our growling stomach would be gobbling down Dad’s version of what a Southern, down-home, from-scratch, made-with-love, banana pudding should taste like.
Now, a ‘Nana Puddin’ eaten at room temperature is okay, but not the tastiest. One straight from the oven is the best dessert on the planet. Okay, I’ll admit that you do have to let it cool for a spell… but not for long. While the puddin’ simmered in the stove, the ingredients wrapped their arms around each other like best friends and settled in together, making the pudding indescribably good. If you’ve never eaten a pudding like that, you haven’t eaten a real “‘Nana” pudding. And you have no idea what you’ve missed.
Unfortunately, I have never been able to come anywhere near Dad’s, old-fashioned Nana pudding. But even still, I can taste its goodness and for that my heart and stomach say, “Thanks, Dad, for making my Sundays extra special and deliciously sweet.”
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