March 25, 2013

You are always on my mind....

Hah!  Bet you thought I was going to write about my husband, or my kids, or maybe Willie Nelson (although I do have a cute Willie Nelson story, but that's for another day).  No, something else has been on my mind lately, and with Easter just around the corner, it's time to talk about really important topics, like banana pudding.

I kid you not...on Facebook and Pinterest over the weekend there must have been over a dozen different postings about banana pudding, so clearly I am not the only one whose thoughts are turning to spring and delicious desserts.  I grew up eating my mother's banana pudding and have made it many, many times for my own family, so I admit to thinking I was a bit of a banana pudding expert.  Much to my chagrin, I was proven wrong!

True husband and I were vacationing in Tennessee a couple of years ago, and had stopped in at a small convenience market to pick up a couple of staples before heading back to our cabin to cook supper.  I was waiting for my husband to pay for our purchases and was idly looking at the small refrigerated display case, where little tubs of banana pudding were displayed.  Another tourist, seeing where I was looking, came over and emphatically exclaimed that I HAD TO BUY the banana pudding.  She went on and on about how wonderful it was, and shared that she and her husband had been stopping in each day on their vacation to buy a fresh tub. So when my husband came over by me I told him we'd been instructed that we HAD TO BUY the banana pudding.  The store owner volunteered at that point that it was made fresh each day by his wife and mother-in-law, and claimed it was the best pudding in the world. 

So later on that night, while we were relaxing on the beautiful deck at the cabin watching the stars warming up their twinkles, my husband went into the kitchen and came back out with the tub and two spoons. Feeling rather skeptical, we tasted the pudding and.........

Remember that classic scene in the 1984 sci-fi movie Starman, starring Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen, where Bridges (an alien who is stranded on earth) takes his first bite of apple pie?  And his face just kind of melts into this HUGE satisfied grin?
Well, heck yeah, that was us!  The store owner and the tourist were right, this was THE BEST banana pudding in the world!  And we went back every single afternoon until our vacation ended to buy a new tub.  No amount of cajoling would wrestle the top secret recipe out of him, but he did finally admit that there was cool-whip in the pudding, plus a special vanilla pudding from Pittsburgh.  So once we got home I 'googled' (is that a proper verb now?  if not, it should be, because I 'google' all the time) and I found Paula Deen's recipe, which is pretty darn close to the perfection we tasted in Tennessee.  So if you have not run across the recipe before, I've posted it in my Recipes tab, just in time for Easter or a spring brunch.  Maybe it's not the most elegant dessert (think more along the lines of 'down home cooking') but the taste just can't be beat.  What's not to love about a recipe named Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding?!

So now you are probably wondering how on earth I'm going to incorporate a poem into today's post?  I must admit, it's a bit of a challenge to find poems about banana pudding, even really amazing banana pudding, but as luck would have it, I did find a poet who wrote a short article on villanelles, a French poetic form that has repeating lines and rhymes.  And, one day while musing on the subway, she realized that banana pudding was in fact much like the composition of a villanelle--seemingly complex but actually quite simple in construction. 

The poet, Karin Gustafson, shares that "Although the dessert, a layered concoction of creamy custard, banana slices, vanilla wafers, and whipped cream, seems very elaborate, it is in fact made with a relatively small number of ingredients, several of which are prepackaged (as in the vanilla wafers and the bananas).  What the recipe does require, however, is planning;  i.e. your pudding needs time to set, your bananas must be more or less uniformly sliced (and not too soon before assembly); your cream whipped, your wafers unboxed.  Without that planning, the whole concoction is flat, runny.

Which is amazingly like writing a villanelle.  Because you really do need to spend a bit of time getting your repeating lines right, and choosing flexible rhymes. Otherwise it will just collapse. But once you have your base ingredients ready, the assembly is really quite fun. Unfortunately, villanelles, like many poetic forms, seem to have fallen from fashion in modern poetry. Some critics might even say that villanelles, like Banana Pudding, are essentially a Trifle. (As in an English confection of sherry-soaked cake, fruit, custard, cream. All I can say is that Trifle, like Banana Pudding, is pretty terrific stuff." 

I couldn't agree more, so here is today's poem, a fun little villanelle for your reading pleasure.  It celebrates spring, and surely if we start the celebration now spring will decide to drop by for a visit?

in Just-by E. E. Cummings

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame baloonman

whistles      far      and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it's

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old baloonman whistles
far      and      wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and


 baloonMan      whistles

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