Let me say that beyond sparse experimentation in my youth, I’ve never been a recreational drug user. I don’t know if it’s my genetic makeup or personality, (“Really, you don’t smoke pot?!?” “Uh, no. I’m just like this…”) or what, but I seem to have a high-tolerance level, and pot never did much for me, so it was easy to “Just say no.” Why bother? But when my prescribed anti-anxiety medicine didn’t seem to be lifting the baby elephant so stylishly draped across my shoulders, exercise was not exorcising my demons, and I found myself suddenly weeping uncontrollably simply entering a grocery store, I considered following Alice and spelunking down into Wonderland: Drink this and it will make you small, eat this it will make you tall. Smoke this Blueberry Haze and make a Classic Banana Pudding from Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible. Hilarity will ensue.
Right away I realize one of my ears is clogged, but I figure it’s due to the massive coughing fit and gagging I experienced after my two drags (post-edit: I’ve been informed it should be “hits.”) I try to clear them by plugging my nose and squishing my ears out, like scuba diving. The thought of how similar I’m feeling to diving and being underwater makes me giggle, and I realize the stuff must be working. Let the pudding making begin!
My previously 98-pound weakling math skills have become non-existent, buried in a pile of sand kicked at me by the muscle-flexing G-13 X. The first thing I need is ¾ cup of sugar, but the measuring cups on the kitchen island are mocking me: I can’t seem to make the correlation between the physical size and the actual measurement. Concentrating very hard, and proceeding with sloth-like slowness, I manage to measure out the proper amount of dry ingredients. They get the best thorough mixing in the history of mankind. I reward myself by scampering over to the office nook with glee to write down the amusing thoughts in my head, and laugh at myself because I’m doing so. I’m a clean-as-you-go type of cook, so I wash the dishes as I’m through with them, only to get distracted by the suddenly very clear spots on the toaster oven. They must be cleaned. Now. I decide I need to write this down, and add an illustration of the oven with the spots so I won’t forget.
My laughter draws our houseguest out of her room. We decide this would be a great cooking show. Baked with Martha. I tell her if I’m still laughing like this in an hour to call an ambulance. She beams a beautiful grin at me, making me feel lyrical so I grandly tell her “She’s the Devil’s Mistress with flowing mermaid hair.” I pull out the scratch paper from the cookbook where I’ve now hidden my notes and write this down. I circle “Devil’s Mistress,” draw a bold arrow to it –> “Heavy metal band name.”
As I go into the pantry I am certain that I will forget what I’m going in there for, and sure enough, I do. Self-fulfilling prophecy. I go over the recipe for the millionth time and remember it was the pan. I go back to the pantry singing “pan, pan, pan, pantry!” I pour half the pudding into the pan (pan, pan, pantry!) and read that I need “about 50 vanilla wafers…” and the world stops. I bought Mini Nilla Wafers, at the time cleverly thinking more surface area to volume types of thoughts, but now there’s a giant neon exclamation point over my head! There’s going to be waaaaay more wafers to count! I shrug my shoulders and carefully place each cookie, rounded side up, in perfect lines in a single layer across the pudding’s surface, then top each cookie with a banana slice. This seems to take a satisfying amount of… forever. I wish I was a graphic designer, or an artist, or a computer-person so I could design emoticons that express how I’m feeling: Stonicons.
I finally manage to get the banana pudding into the fridge to chill its required minimum of 4 hours, and retreat to the couch to do likewise. The pudding? Turned out great despite the obstacles.
¾ cup sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup cornstarch
¼ tsp. salt
6 large egg yolks
4 cups whole milk
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small bits
4 tsp. vanilla extract
About 50 vanilla wafers (or half an 11-oz box)
3 large or 4 medium bananas, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
2 cups heavy cream
3 Tbsp. sugar
For filling, in a medium bowl, whisk together white and brown sugars, the cornstarch, and the salt. Whisk in egg yolks and ½ cup of the milk until thoroughly combined.
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the remaining 3 ½ cups milk to a boil over medium-high heat. Whisking constantly, gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula, until a few bubbles rise to the surface and the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla.
Spread half the custard into a 13 by 9-inch baking dish and smooth the top. Top the custard with the vanilla wafers in a single layer. Place all of the sliced bananas on top of the wafers. Spread the remaining custard over the surface. Cover the surface entirely with plastic wrap (touching) to prevent a skin forming. Refrigerate until thoroughly cooled and set, at least 4 hours.
When ready to serve, prepare the topping: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or using a handheld mixer, beat the cream and sugar at medium-high speed to medium peaks. Spread the whipped cream over the surface of the custard and serve.
Serves 8 to 12
From Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible