(Dear readers, Today has been a bit hectic & as I haven't had time to write a post worth reading, I'm posting a chunk from Cebah's Kitchen, a book of stories I'm working on, of or related to food. I chose this one because the color yellow has been on my mind lately. And that's the reason I've included a photo of an assemblage of wave-worn spindles that I picked up on the Olympic Penn. I wanted the ones that were as big around as myself, but the sack bulging full of these small ones, lugged home on the plane, brought stares enough. I loved them so much that I painted them cadmium yellow light. The drawing is from an old sketch book - a lotus from a friend's pond & two bananas, just beginning to get their spots. Ready to become a pudding. )
Bananas are the only inherently humorous fruit. In the world of comedy they are a fetish food for monkeys – which, by the law of simultaneous inversion, are not our ancestors, but what we become as a result of eating bananas. I don’t think I need to say anything about the banana’s shape.
The peels, when cast carelessly on the path of life, bring down verticals destined for a fall. Such is comic justice.
A banana, in a bowl of mixed fruit, repels serious still-life painters. The unique and absurd shade of yellow required for a resemblance makes a mockery of art.
With all this in mind, the wise cook is cautious around bananas. Banana pudding is a dessert fit for clowns, and, unsurprisingly then, said to originate in Kentucky.
Start by making the vanilla wafers, and no, do not use some from a box.
Cream ½ cup of butter with a cup of sugar and mix in an egg and a tab of vanilla.
Combine 1 1/3 up of flour with ¾ tsp baking powder & ¼ tsp salt. Mix the dry into the wet, make into heaping tsp-sized balls, space 2 inches apart on an un-greased baking sheet, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Remove to a plate and cool.
There are more cautious ways of making custards and pastry creams, but I eventually agreed with Cebah that the cautions “Are not necessary”. What is necessary is constant whisking.
Heat 2 cups of milk in a saucepan. While the milk is heating, whisk together 3 egg yolks, 3 tabs of cornstarch, and ¼ cup of sugar in a second saucepan. Cook this over high heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to thicken. Raise the pan from the heat and quickly pour in the hot milk. Return the pan to the heat and whisk constantly, making sure that you are covering all of the bottom of the pan with vigorous motion. Continue cooking and whisking until the custard thickens, then (still whisking) place the pan in a cold water bath and whisk until the custard begins to cool. Lastly, whisk in the “3 flowers” – a tsp of vanilla, a dash of angostura bitters, and a half tsp of rose water.
Line the bottom of an oven proof dish with vanilla wafers, broken in half. Spread half of the custard over the wafers. Slice two ripe bananas into ½ inch slices and arrange them over the custard. Spread on the rest, and make the meringue.
Put 4 or 5 egg whites in a mixing bowl. Hit them a bit with your mixer until they are foamy and sprinkle on a pinch of cream of tartar. Beat at high speed until the whites begin to form soft peaks, then lightly sprinkle on 1/3 cup of sugar, a bit at a time, beating all the while. Meringues weep if the sugar is mishandled, so do it right. When the sugar is incorporated, season the meringue with a half tsp of vanilla, a dash of angostura, and a ¼ tsp of rosewater. Continue beating until the meringue is shiny and stiff enough to form firm peaks when the beaters are lifted.
Pile this on the assembled pudding, lifting the spatula up from the surface to make an array of brown-able peaks. Bake the meringue for about 7 minutes, until the peaks are lightly browned.