I have three indelible memories of my Nanny (my mom’s mom) and cooking. The first two revolve around holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve I have always spent with my Mom’s side of the family in my Nanny’s home. Thanksgiving found my Nanny with a faded apron in the kitchen with the turkey and all the trimmings. Christmas Eve it was the same apron, but this time a ham occupied the oven and all the cousins ran thru the house with glee at the mounds of gifts awaiting us downstairs. My third memory is possibly my favorite. It involves weekend adventures at the cabin with just Nanny and my best childhood (and adulthood) friends. Also bananas, Nilla wafers and pudding. Isn’t my Nanny the most adorable 85-year-old you’ve ever seen?
This recipe is not complex or fancy. It is simply one of the great comfort foods of my life. Nanny would make it when my sisters and I came with her to the cabin in the summers. We got to layer the bananas and the cookies, whisk the pudding and generally feel incredibly useful. Last weekend my sisters and I went to the cabin again with Nanny, and the fact that our parents weren’t coming with us immediately compelled us to purchase the ingredients to make Nanny’s Banana Pudding. We started by busting out the very old hand-held whisk. The most awesome thing ever.
It still works! Just a few minutes later and the pudding was perfect. You can make your own vanilla pudding if you’d like, but Jell-o was always the way Nanny did it, and that’s plenty good enough for me.
Layer up some Nilla wafers in whatever casserole dish you can find. We had to look deep in the recesses of the cabin’s cupboards before finding one that would fit all this deliciousness. We did find 7 pie plates though. Funny, Nanny didn’t remember ever making enough pies to warrant a stash of dishes like that.
Dump half the pudding over the cookies and smooth it out. You can just make out the cribbage board in the top left of this shot. Also essential for camping at the cabin with Nanny. We are cribbage playing fools.
Then cut up some bananas. Preferably with a dull knife, missing the tip. It’s more authentically Nanny that way.
And layer them on top.
Then repeat the cookies/pudding layers.
Now, as we were spooning the final bit of pudding over the top, we realized it’s possible there should have been another layer of bananas in there somewhere. At that point it was too late for us to fix the situation. And, we’d had enough wine that we didn’t really care. I think Nanny always did just one layer of bananas, but another one wouldn’t hurt I suppose.
As we were garnishing the top with a few cookies, my Nanny informed my uncles (who’d come up for the day) what we’d just made. I’ve never seen them get so excited, and we’re a family who is generally pretty thrilled about food. Apparently Nanny used to make this pudding for them as a reward and when they were sick at home. It is pretty much their favorite dessert ever. It’s incredible the effect nostalgia has.
This pudding is a family tradition that I’ll never grow tired of. My two uncles and I polished off half the dish when we came into the cabin to get the pudding out for everyone else. Yeah, see how we worked that? It took all of my self-control to leave some for the rest of the gang. Every bite is perfection. Cool creamy pudding, sweet bananas and slightly softened cookies exquisitely layered in every mouthful. This is the best pic I can give you of the inside layers. If I’d spent any more time on it, my uncles would have taken down the whole tray. Yum yum yum. Thanks Nanny. I love you.
Nanny’s Banana Pudding
From my Nanny
1 package (5.1 oz box ) Jell-o vanilla instant pudding
3 cups cold milk
2 bananas, sliced
1 box Nilla wafers (you’ll use about 60 cookies)
1. Beat milk and pudding mix with whisk (or a really old hand blender) for 2 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes until soft set.
2. Meanwhile, layer Nilla wafers in an even layer in a 9×13 (or whatever dish Nanny happens to have in the kitchen) casserole dish. Cover bottom completely and up the sides.
3. Spoon half the pudding over the cookies and smooth.
4. Layer bananas in an even layer on top of the pudding.
5. Cover with more Nilla wafers and then the remaining pudding.
6. Garnish with a few more Nilla wafers if desired.