Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Quest for the perfect Banana Pudding recipe.

I know that healthy foods are today's rules for cooks and I have to laugh at so many foodies and food bloggers who claim that their grandmothers cooked without processed foods. Unless their grandmothers are in their 90s today, or would be 90, then they're lying to you. Most food bloggers are in their 30's, or younger, so this is highly improbable. Not to be confused with impossible, but definitely improbable.

Don't drink the food kool-aid! I kid you not. Now, there is nothing wrong with avoiding processed foods, but downright lying? That's wrong, but I digress.

I was in search of a real old fashioned banana pudding recipe. I'm a nurse and did skilled home health (not companions or sitters or live in type, think visiting hospital nurse) for eons. I had one patient who made some old fashioned banana pudding that was so delicious it was absolutely startling.
Mocha banana pudding, recipe.
This 1935 ad offers up a recipe using bread.
We had some pretty intense storms the night before my visit. Her family had a tree down in the neighborhood and so was unable to visit as they had intended. She had this fresh banana pudding she had made and no one to give any of it to. Initially I wasn't going to eat any (if I ate everything my patients ever offered me I'd be the size of a house) but when she told me about her family, I felt terrible for her. This is a woman of about 85 who was a widow and lived out in the country, all by herself. She was plenty able to care for herself, but we were seeing her for something unrelated to mobility.

Wanting to make her happy, I took some and that first bite was like heaven on a fork, I kid you not. It was so delicious I could hardly believe it. I've had a lot of banana pudding in my years, but never one like hers. Ever. Unfortunately for me, I had a long list of patients that day as 2 nurses had called out do to road blocks from the storms. I did not have time to take down her recipe, this would haunt me for the rest of my life.

Pumpkin banana pudding
In January of 1942, this recipe utilizes canned pumpkin,
instead of fresh. Also, isn't it odd to find a Pumpkin Banana 
Pudding, in January?
A few days later, before I could see her again and get that recipe, she was gone. Up to God she was sent, but at least it was peaceful. She went to bed and simply didn't wake up. Thankfully her daughter had been with her, so she wasn't alone. Perhaps she waited for her. I've had patients do that.

Lately we've had a lot of rain and storms and so as I often do, I thought of her. I'm a genealogist now that I'm retired, but I'm in early retirement, so don't think I'm a little old lady, PLEASE. ;) I have a subscription to Newspapers.com and at first I thought it was a silly business, until I began to see that it wasn't just awesome for genealogy, but for simply everything you can think of!

I can search for old recipes, see what the early Californians were eating, see what real southerners ate and true Yankee pot roast. I love it!

Steamed banana pudding.
This one steams in a mould. I know what a mould is and I 
know what steaming is, but I've never imagined steaming in 
a mould. Apparently in 1930, you did.
Today I decided I'd look for a good banana pudding recipe. I wanted recipes from between about 1930 to 1945. I was thunderstruck by the number of recipes I found, not to mention the variety of ways each recipe was made. All were different, even if they were similar! I saw some trends too.

In the 1930s, it looks as though people just cooked the custard in any 'ol pot. By the mid-1930's, they were saying to use double boilers, or scalded milk (which the earlier ones didn't call for), even though the recipes were rather similar.

Another change gave me a little insight into life during the war. By 1942, the recipes had shifted from using flour, milk and sugar to cornstarch, pre-packaged custard powder (pudding mixes today) and canned milk. One word is the cause of that change: R-A-T-I-O-N-S.

Prize Winning banana pudding with cornstarch and graham crackers.
Another one in 1942: prize winner, Mrs. Bishop
substitutes cornstarch for the flour. Additionally, 
she uses graham crackers instead of vanilla wafers.  
I looked at other recipes that were on the same pages as the pudding recipes. I was intrigued by the 1940's recipes because it wasn't just banana pudding that showed a difference, it was everything! It appears to me that the great shift from fresh to processed foods, occurred during the war.

Think of it this way. You're limited on how much flour, milk, sugar and eggs you can use, but if you by a can of something that has some of what you need, it doesn't count against your fresh rations. Pre-packaged custard powder isn't counted as flour. Canned milk isn't counted as fresh milk. You see how this is working out?

Foodies that write those blogs, I am convinced, are not really understanding the real history that you can see with your own eyes, if you research it. They claim their grandmothers didn't use processed foods, that's bunk, unless they were a small family of 2 or 3. The proof was right there for all to read. I'm sure they are a well meaning bunch, yes, but they're definitely misguided and as such are misleading.

Banana pudding with 1/2 gill milk.
Last, but not least is this little odd recipe for your basic pudding.
At first glance, you may assume that a 1/2 gill milk is likely 1/2
gallon. Don't assume anything! A gill is 1/4 of a pint., so that 
means a 1/2 gill is 1/4 cup. Also, shouldn't you put the 
meringue on after you pour it out, instead of before?  
As for the recipes, some had meringue, others didn't; some used lemons, some didn't. I found one for a "steamed banana pudding," which confuses the heck out of me because how do you steam "a mould," and it also added strawberry jam. One melted marshmallows into the milk. One called itself sugarless, even though it called for light syrup and honey (sugarless as in rations, my dears). There was one called a caramel banana pudding, a mocha banana pudding and yet a pumpkin banana pudding . Some called for cake crumbs or even stale cake crumbs, some for bread crumbs, some for graham crackers and some still for vanilla wafers. What all had in common were two things: eggs and bananas. The rest was a free for all.

So which recipe do I choose? They all sound so interesting! It makes me want to write book called 101 Way to Make Old-Fashioned Banana Pudding. LOL!

I think I'll go with one from the 30's. The pre-processed creamy, sweet, rich and super unhealthy kind. They sound amazing! I thought I'd share with you some of the recipes I found. Let us know what you'd like to try in the comments, or do you have a tried and true banana pudding recipe?

  • Images graciously provided by Newspapers.com, and used by permission.

No comments:

Post a Comment