Banana Pudding: A Kid in the Kitchen

On a recent Monday evening, still worn out after a weekend trip to Austin, we found ourselves wanting something simple to throw together for dinner. Fortunately, we'd picked up a few pounds of barbecue from Smitty's in Lockhart on the way back to town, so dinner was just a re-heat and a few sides away.

I like to keep things simple when I'm doing barbecue, especially when I'm just heating up someone else's. I pre-heated the oven to 350 and set up a reheating rig for the meat (a wire cooling rack set in a half-sheet pan, with about ½ a cup of beer poured in for moisture) and settled on a menu of braised mustard greens and roasted sweet potatoes to accompany the 'cue, with a simple banana pudding for dessert.

After picking my daughter up from school, we went to the grocery store, where she asked if she could make dessert. Cecilia loves banana pudding, and was excited at the prospect of helping out in the kitchen.

I debated making real-deal, scratch banana pudding, and simply having her help out with the non-stove steps. All things considered, it's about as easy as making it from a mix. But I decided to let her claim it as her own, grabbing a few boxes of instant banana pudding, a handful of bananas, a box of 'Nilla Wafers, and some Cool Whip.

As I browned a few links of crumbled boudin, sweated shallots, and added a large bunch of mustard greens and a bottle of beer to braise, Cecilia set about the task of making one of the most iconic Southern desserts around. My wife pulled out the trifle dish (what else is banana pudding but a thoroughly American trifle?), and Cecilia began whisking milk into the pudding mix.

She gently (for a seven-year-old) folded whipped topping into the pudding, then layered the mix with bananas and cookies, parfait-style. She may have stolen a few bites along the way. It was the perfect dessert after a meal of second-day barbecue and greens.

We could have gone with scratch pudding, but it wouldn't have been her creation. Ultimately, the pudding tasted better for all of its so-called flaws. After all, my daughter had poured herself into making that boxed-mix based, non-dairy, whipped-topping dessert, and it bore the mark of her enthusiasm. It also encouraged her to keep that enthusiasm, as we scarfed the pudding down in record time. Now she wants to make it again for her Papa (it's my dad's favorite), only this time, "the real way." That's my girl.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall