This morning I was checking Facebook before I left for Kaiser School. One of my friends from my hometown had posted a recipe. There was a big picture and then the recipe under. It was banana pudding. I could taste it, smell, almost chew it. It was in the room. I shared it so the recipe would be saved on my wall. Later tonight I will do a copy/paste to my recipe file.
When I saw the picture I flashed back to picnics of my early childhood. Mother was not real interested in cooking, but some things she cooked were outstanding. Her high points were chuck roast the best in the world, great potato salad, pimento cheese, white fruit cake cookies (soaked in rum), and banana pudding. At pot lucks and family reunions she brought potato salad or banana pudding, sometimes both.
We had lots of picnics at Levi Jackson State Park. They had swings, see-saws, tables, grills, and Shelter Houses. The Shelter Houses had huge fireplaces on either end and lots and lots of picnic tables. if it was pouring rain as it does lots of the time in the South, you sat in the Shelter House and ate good food. You roasted marshmallows on sticks in the fireplace. Sometimes we even cooked our hot dogs on a stick all by our selves. I have great memories of being pushed in the swings, playing hide and seek in the woods. And we always stopped at the grist mill which is still working after 200 years. And ghoulish children that we were, we would reenact the Indian attack. Some would hide and the Indians would look for us. But they always had to not find three of us.
Why is banana pudding so strong a trigger you ask? Bananas were a food we could not buy every day. Bananas had to be brought inland seasonally from a port on the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. There was not much commerce between the Tropics and the mountains of Kentucky. My little town of less than 5000 people had bananas in the stores, but it was a big deal. Bananas were nectar of the gods to me. And to have a whole banana of my own, no sharing with rotten little brother, or eating the part with the brown spots my big sister wouldn’t eat, heaven. We are talking the 1940s and 50s. Not much fresh food after Labor Day. Canned fruit and vegetables only. But sometimes someone (usually my Uncle Fessor) would drive a truck to Georgia or Florida and load up fruit in the middle of winter. And then we would have banana pudding out of season. It was a special food, you couldn’t just decide you wanted it.
Mother fixed it and we would be given dessert if we ate those awful canned vegetables. The next morning we would have banana on our cereal.
I can still see Levi Jackson, see my friends, taste the awful sulfur water. It was the best picnic place ever!