Yesterday I introduced China to my Mamaw’s Nana Puddin’ (AKA banana pudding). In my after school cooking class, we made cucumber and cream cheese finger sandwiches and Nana Puddin’, and while they loved both of the dishes, the pudding was by far their favorite! “Ms. Jennifer, this pudding is THIS GOOD!” they’d shout while giving me a two thumbs up. “Ms. Jennifer, you’re the best cooker in the world,” they’d say while looking up at me with those cute little faces. I love them! 🙂 While we were making the pudding, I shared this story about when my Mamaw and I would make Nana Puddin’ together…
Going to Mamaw’s house was my favorite thing to do growing up. Between the rides out to woods in the beat up old Dodge pick-up, picking dewberries from the vines that grew around the barbed wire fence, evenings spent listening to her tell us stories from her childhood, and shelling peas on the front porch swing, we always cooked. I remember so many meals we cooked together, but the one that stands out the most is Nana Puddin’.
Before I was tall enough to reach the kitchen counters, Mamaw would hoist me up on the black leather barstool that swiveled with even the slightest movement. I’d sit on my knees while Mamaw taught me how to make homemade vanilla pudding. One thing you need to know about my Mamaw is that she was the best cook in the whole wide world! She made everything from scratch– no box mixes for her. My job, according to Mamaw, was “official taste tester.” Once she had made the pudding just right, she’d spoon a little bit into my mouth, and anxiously await my verdict. “Well, how is it? Does it taste right?” she’d ask. “Hmmm…I think I need another taste to be sure, but I think it’s right,” I’d say grinning. Even though she was onto my tricks, she’d give me another taste. “Yep, just right!” I’d say.
Next came the part where I did most of the work. I’d slice the bananas at just the right thickness, usually all by myself. Next, I’d place a layer of Nilla Wafers in the bottom of the 9×13 glass pan, followed by a layer of sliced bananas. With Mamaw’s help, I’d pour half of the warm pudding on top of the bananas, and repeat the process– Nilla Wafers, bananas, and pudding. The last step, my personal favorite, was making the meringue. She and I would whip the egg whites, sugar, and vanilla until the perfect peaks began to form. After adding the meringue to the top of the pudding, we’d pop it into the oven, where I’d sit and watch until the top was a golden brown. “It’s ready, Mamaw!” I’d call, and she’d pull it out of the oven, placing it on the stovetop to cool. After a few minutes, my brother and Grandaddy, after smelling the pudding cooling on the stove, would gather in the kitchen and we’d all share in the first tastes of the warm, gooey Nana Puddin’…it was pure bliss!
I’m thankful for these memories, and I can’t wait to share them with my kids one day. I have and will always love you, Mamaw! I miss you!