Throwing in the Towel

My friend Autumn recently pointed out an article in The New York Times all about living alone. Not like me in my city apartment, but like folks who choose to be fiercely independent and move somewhere isolated where they can truly be away from it all. The author, Sarah Maslin Nir, profiles three individuals (all men, interestingly enough) and discusses their compulsion to live in isolation. One man describes a feeling of freedom when you’re by yourself: “you don’t have to answer to anybody.” There’s also a feeling of self-sufficiency. Others choose a reclusive lifestyle as a political statement. A 27-year-old British man spent the last year living in a hut he built in  Sweden as a way of being environmentally responsible. Regardless of the justification (and I suppose there doesn’t really need to be one) “Embracing the Life of Solitude” made me really think about what it means to deliberately choose to be by yourself.

Now that desire for extreme solitude isn’t a feeling I can relate to. While I am enjoying living alone, I will ultimately want someone to share moments with. But I will say that lately I’ve surprised myself. I haven’t freaked out (totally) like I thought I would and I haven’t hid in bed with the curtains drawn. When I’m here in the apartment I often turn on the TV for background noise, touch base with friends and family on the phone, and have a pretty deliberately jam-packed calendar. So solitude it’s not. But I kind of like the small changes that I’ve discovered in the cadence of my days: I go to bed later for some strange reason, I’m reading much more,  making tea and sitting on my little stoop, chatting with my neighbors and not rushing home right after work, meeting up with new friends and being more spontaneous. All good things. Oh, and yes, I’ve been known to throw in the towel and eat pudding for dinner. I can’t recommend it enough. When you’re inclined to throw in the towel–whether it’s choosing a summer of solitude or eating a Southern dessert for dinner (and then breakfast the next morning), I’d say by all means. Because –at least for me– there’s no one around to tell you not to or to judge the nutritional composition of your dinner. It doesn’t matter if it sounds good to anyone else. Remember when you were little and the saying ‘you’re not the boss of me’ was your biggest weapon? Ya, kinda like that.

I think the first time I had banana pudding was actually at Magnolia Bakery in New York. I’m embarrassed to even talk about it because I was one of those twenty-somethings in line for the cupcake they saw on Sex in the City. Have you been to the bakery? It’s actually quite likeable in a very vintage Americana way with colorful cake-stands and tablecloths and really darn good cupcakes. But that night we knew we wouldn’t be back for a long time, so in addition to cupcakes I bought a few not-so-memorable cookies, a piece of pie, and a to-go container of banana pudding. We sat on the bench across the street, kicked off our shoes, and a quiet fell on the street corner as we sampled each treat. We ambled back to the hotel on that humid night in New York with sticky fingers and smiles. I’ll never forget that banana pudding: super creamy with the ripest bananas and piles of fluffy whipped cream. When I got home, I looked up the recipe in the Magnolia Cookbook only to discover they use instant pudding. It really wasn’t much of a recipe at all–more like add some bananas to some instant pudding and call it a day. Let’s just say that’s about the time when banana pudding and I parted ways. But thanks to this simple recipe, we’re back together.

The recipe is from a great book that focuses just on Southern desserts. We’re talking lemon ice-box pie, Hummingbird cake, Coca Cola cake–nostalgic desserts culled from the editors of Southern Living Magazine. I cut the published recipe in half because, let’s face it, I don’t need 12-14 servings of anything laying around my apartment. But even so, I had some pudding leftover after I filled my serving dish, so I made a few individual glass jars–next time I think I’ll do them all in glass jars. I like how you can see the layers of the pudding through them. I also adapted the recipe to include less sugar and a bit more flour for a slightly thicker pudding. I encourage you to throw in the towel and try some for dinner very soon.

Southern Banana Pudding

Southern Banana Pudding

  • Yield: 6
  • Prep time: 15 mins
  • Cook time: 25 mins
  • Total time: 40 mins

Ingredients

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tsp flour
3 cups whole milk
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
6 oz. vanilla wafers (about half of a box)
3 bananas
3/4 cup whipping cream (or more if you'd like!)
1/8 cup powdered sugar
few dashes salt

Instructions

Whisk milk and egg yolks in a bowl and pour into a heavy saucepan. Add sugar, flour, and salt and whisk together until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 20 minutes or until thickened. If it’s not getting as thick as you’d like after 20 minutes, feel free to add another teaspoon of flour. Remove from heat; stir in the vanilla.

Arrange one-third of vanilla wafers in bottom of a small serving dish. Slice 1 banana and layer over wafers. Spoon one-third of custard over bananas. Repeat until custard is gone and you have a few solid layers.

Beat whipping cream at medium speed with an electric mixer until foamy; gradually add powdered sugar to mixture, beating until soft peaks form. Spread over custard. Serve immediately or cover and chill for eight hours.

Comments

  1. Shannalee

    Loved reading this and the pudding looks perfect.

  2. Barefoot Belle

    This is my favorite way to make banana pudding...homemade, but the meringue replaced by sweetened real whipped cream. Not much compares.

  3. amy

    Pudding for dinner is almost as appealing as pie for breakfast. My daughter is not big on bananas, I keep thinking I need to find a peach or apricot pudding, some sort of combo between your recipe and the mango pudding at some dim sum places.

  4. jen maiser

    Gah - I want this now. Lovely post, and I can guarantee you I'll be making this pudding recipe this weekend.

  5. Nicole

    I have been making a lot of banana pudding myself lately. I have been using the David Guas recipe from Damn Good Sweet. I haven't been able to make anything else from that cookbook, because every time I open it I drift back to the banana pudding. I have a question for you? Where do you find your french yogurt cups? I know they are very easy to come by in Europe. I think they look just lovely in photos and have looked all over online to find them with no luck.

    1. megang

      Hi Nicole! I'll have to check out that recipe. The jars are made by a German company, Weck. They have a website, do all different sizes...I'm in love with them. Can also order off of Heath Ceramics website. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. El

    Glad things are working out. Pudding for dinner sounds delicious!

  7. Maggie

    I've been searching for a banana pudding recipe! This is so fantastic--bookmarking (and making) right away.

  8. Kristina

    I'm not even a big banana fan but this looks like a thousand shades of awesome!

  9. Anne

    Oh my! Banana cream pie is one of my favorite things, but really its all about the banana and the cream, right? I think this would be a nice little thing to add to my dessert to-do list.

  10. Sanura

    Here's hoping those days of solitude are long gone. A few years ago, when I finally had my own apartment. It was the start of a truly depressing period in my life. Lessons from the experience are valuable: I love to be around friends. And, the banana Pudding is a perfect to treat to share with love ones. Love the whipped cream. I might make this for a boxing party this weekend...

  11. Nicole

    Megan,
    Thank you so much! I just ordered them online. They also didn't charge anything extra to ship to Alaska. Fabulous! Have a great day.
    -Nicole

  12. Maria

    Lovely dessert and photos!

  13. Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen

    I've been seeing so many banana pudding recipes lately and ALL of them use instant pudding. What's up with that? This looks absolutely lovely, and yes, I love the glass jars--I think those layers deserve showing off.

    I'm new to your blog and find it absolutely adorable--it's now on my RSS feed. Thanks for the recipe!

  14. burt kozloff

    I love the guy huddling in a hut in Sweden in aid of environmental responsibility. We used to have a lot of people like that here in the US -- circa 1800 or so. That's how we lost the buffalo.

    The pudding sounds delicious. But if I make t, Marj will gain 200 pounds.

  15. Zoe (Crumbs)

    Banana pudding take two! It was probably best that you didn't mention our first foray into pudding adventures in the dingy Lake George kitchen, but glad to see this goodness revisited in a big way! I hope we can both celebrate throwing in the towel and make this for dinner some night this summer...bring on the 12-14 and lets have it in bed! Love you, Megs

    1. megang

      Eek! How could I have forgotten about that heinous pudding we made. Oh my god--I remember whatever went wrong was all my fault and you saved the day. Love you, crumbs!

  16. Lisa

    So proud of you! Yah!

    Only one thing. I don't like bananas. But I do like the pudding cups!

  17. Memoria

    I enjoyed this post. I live alone and most of the time I love it. There are times when I would like to share some moments with the love of my life, but all in all, I feel fine.

    This banana pudding looks perfect. I, too, enjoy the freedom of making and eating dessert whenever I want haha. This pudding will be one of those types of treats. Lovely photos.

  18. Rachael

    i do believe that it was me who saved the day....i remember walking through an awkward yard to retrieve some ingredient y'all missed. oh, and if anyone would like photos....

  19. A Canadian Foodie

    I get so excited by the simplest things - like your little glass jars. Where did you get them? I have seen them on other blogs - and when in London, found them in the grocery store filled with yogurt - and then at Borough Market filled with Creme Brulee. All I wanted was the jars. I bought one creme brulee so I could have one jar. I have one!!! :)
    Love the recipe - but, LOVE THE JARS!
    Valerie

  20. Dana

    Does that ever look like a tasty supper!

    I don't know if this is a living too far up north thing, or maybe it's just a growing up under a rock thing, but I don't think I've ever had a banana pudding. What a cool idea! I'll need to rectify this situation.

  21. Chez Us

    Great Post! Even though, I love coming home and being with my man-lover, I cherish the moments of solitude as well. Maybe it is because we have such a small place or maybe because it makes the heart grower fonder. The funny thing is, he does not believe me, he expects me to throw a hissy fit and instead I am ... sure, go, have fun and that is because those moments of solitude are cherishable. I eat cake for dinner and drink tea in bed!

    1. megang

      Denise--love that you call Lenny your man-lover. Made me chuckle. I think there's something to be said regarding the heart grows fonder part--for sure.

  22. Chez Us

    ps.... love the jars & spoons! Yes, you will have to wait for my post to see why. *smile* *wink*

  23. Alice

    I had a similar experience with a banana-pudding concoction that turned out to be all processed - your version sounds amazing!
    The recipe I had layered chessman cookies (similar to danish butter cookies), fresh bananas, and vanilla pudding folded with whip cream and cream cheese whipped with sweetened condensed milk and topped with whip cream. It is insanely good but would be SO much better made with homemade ingredients.
    I wish I could eat dairy - this looks so tasty!

  24. Janet

    I just realized I've never had banana pudding! But now there's no excuse - I have to make this!

    Beautiful writing, as always! I'm glad you're finding some enjoyment in living alone, and getting to have whatever the heck you want for dinner! :)

  25. Jeb

    That Magnolia banana pudding was my birthday cake last year!

  26. grace

    roommate shoommate. i can have most of my needs met with a batch of creamy banana pudding. :)

  27. allison lemons

    Beautiful post Megan. I really love reading your blog. Your writing tells such a vivid story. I always want to read more.

  28. Doreen

    Pudding is tops! Thanks for sharing - and curious about what came in those little jars. Love the shape.

  29. Kate

    Solitary or otherwise, banana pudding is a good thing to have for the occasional treat. I love the combination of those flavors, and vanilla wafers are such a nostalgia item for me, that even the mention of them makes me sigh like a little kid. It's also nice to read that you're spreading your wings and testing solo flight in such positive ways. There are times for shuttering yourself away, and if it's a means to dispel a sense of sadness than I am all for it. We need some moments like that, but you seem to be balancing them well with those pursuits that fill the soul too. It's really nice to read that.

  30. elizabeth (sophisticated pie)

    oh i can never get enough banana pudding! or hummingbird cake, or for that matter any of the other southern desserts you listed (expect coca cola cake... never had that one).

    P.S. i love those jars for this recipe what a great touch!

  31. talia

    the moment you started talking pudding i thought about the magnolia cafe version and then you mentioned it! I used to make it often but have been wanting to use instant pudding less and less. My neighbors still ask for it for our block party though: and so this summer I'll be able to use your recipe and make everyone happy!

  32. A Canadian Foodie

    I must say that this is the best pudding recipe I have seen in ages. I know I already commented - but I am back just to say that! YUM@!
    :)
    Valerie

  33. Caroline + Lisa

    Wow, this looks amazing. I think we're definitely going to have to try this! We love your blog!

    1. megang

      Thanks, ladies. I ADORE your blog, so the feeling is mutual. Thanks for stopping by!

  34. Denise | Chez Danisse

    Oh wow, this looks very good and the servings in the jars are darling. Nice work, throwing in the towel.

  35. Kristen

    yum yum yum - looks amazing! Have all the required ingredients, next step is an attempt at making it :)

    Really love your blog, always excited to see a new post up!

  36. Manggy

    I love this. I once made banana pudding that was wrecked by unripe bananas (grr) so I was kinda traumatized. But Southern Living's version looks fabulous - I think they recently had some on the cover that were in tall glasses.

  37. Manggy

    By the way, I think it's great that you've found a nice rhythm even in your singlehood. Stay strong! :)

  38. amelia

    adorable, perfctly comforting

  39. Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite

    This is an absolutely inspired recipe Megan! I love those little pots too - have a whole bunch I brought back from France last trip and I say they make everything taste better!!

  40. Sis Boom

    Fantastic. I've been wanting to do banana pudding and blog it ever since having Magnolia's a couple months ago but I lost inspiration after seeing the ingredient list. Perhaps I'll do a side by side? I LOVE the indiv puddings in jars! Great idea!

  41. Lisa

    making this tonight for a potluck tomorrow! it seems like the perfect summer dessert. fingers crossed it comes out as delicious as yours. :)

    1. megang

      Alright, Lisa! Let me know how it turns out. You really can't go wrong...I've had friends, cousins, and old coworkers make it and everyone's loved it.

  42. A Canadian Foodie

    What a touching post. There you are using my favourite glassware, again. The recipe looks nummy. Interestingly, I didn't think the cupcakes there were good. I was there a year ago in March with my duaghter and we bough a red velvet and a vanilla and a chocolate. Each was just "OK"... too light, too flavourless cakewise. I like a dense and moist cup cake. But how sweet to hear the impression this pudding left on you. Talk abotu a retro dessert. Mom used to make this in a pinch for us when we were kids. It was fantastic. Than you for the reminder. I am going to surprise her with it next time they are over.
    :)
    Valerie

  43. Judy

    mmm. I can't wait for the weekend, where I can wrap myself up in my room, with Nina Simone on the tunes, my computer + internet, a good movie, and this pudding. I'm all for it.

  44. Amanda

    I made this tonight for my husband's birthday dessert. It was great!! We both loved it!! Thank you for the great recipe!!!

    1. megang

      Oh I'm so glad, Amanda. That makes my day...it's been far too long since I've made it for myself, actually. Got to get on that.

  45. irene efstathiadis

    where can I those glass pudding cups?

    1. megang

      Hi Irene. They're Weck jars. Find them on their website or at www.heathceramics.com

  46. robin

    That puddin looks awesome and for dinner, YUM!

  47. Megan

    Yes! I just made this, and well, it's amazing. I made it in vintage juice glasses, and it fit perfectly in 6!

    Also, I ate some before dinner yesterday, so thanks for encouraging eating this when it doesn't always seem to make sense. <3

    1. megang

      Awesome, Megan. So glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  48. Flora

    I made this and it is fabulous. Be patient and the pudding really does thicken. I used the mini nilla wafers. Worked great. I will make again!

    1. megang

      Oh great, Flora! I have not seen the mini wafers ... going to have to check those out. Have a great weekend, ~m

  49. JackBlack

    Wohh just what I was searching for, thank you for posting.

Join the Discussion

Winter Soups and Stews

Smoky Butternut Squash and Three Bean Chili

Smoky Butternut Squash and Three Bean Chili

If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.

Read More
5 Tips For Cooking with a Baby + Power Greens Soup

5 Tips For Cooking with a Baby + Power Greens Soup

Last weekend it was so windy – apocalyptically stormy, you could say – that our tent at the farmers market was uprooted by gusts of wind that were not messing around. I wasn't there, but apparently despite being heavily weighted down and with four customers holding onto each corner, it quite literally blew down the block. Sam, from across town, was reporting trees falling on every block and traffic lights out across the city. The next morning on a walk with Oliver around Green Lake, we were met with that same biting wind and ended up retreating for a hot chocolate instead. 'Tis the season in Seattle: we all get a little giddy and ahead of ourselves when we spot the cherry blossoms and daffodils, and I always trick myself into thinking that with the start of daylight savings time,  summer must be right around the corner. In truth, before we had Oliver, we'd often travel somewhere sunny for a little mood boost around this time of year. When I moved from California, many friends – other (empathetic) 'expats' now living in the Pacific Northwest – recommended this: if you know what's good for you, they'd all say, go find the sun in February or March, and we would follow that advice faaaaaithfully. But with a baby, this just isn't where our priorities are this year, and I've found myself relying on other antics like buying out of season strawberries, drinking white wine with dinner, buying a new pair of sandals that likely will not see the light of day for the next two months, and making big, colorful pots of feel good, springy soup. Let's not kid ourselves: Cherry blossoms or not, Seattle's no Palm Springs when it gets down to bathing in the sunlight. But if you step outside onto your little porch, smell the honeysuckle blooming, take notice of the longer, lighter days and think about how you simply can't wait to see your baby crawling around on the sand when it's warm enough to stroll down to the beach, it starts looking better in its own light. 

Read More
Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto

Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto

We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine).  Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).

Read More
Simple Cooking: Pasta and Chickpea Soup

Simple Cooking: Pasta and Chickpea Soup

One of the things I wanted to accomplish before really returning to work in earnest was to print some of our honeymoon photos and get them into an album. This project has taken far longer than expected as I find myself daydreaming about the craggy streets of Naples and meeting up with our friends Mataio and Jessica for a late night slice of pizza which we ate sitting on the sidewalk before embarking on an aimless but wonderful stroll of the city. There are photos of our balcony by the sea, most with tanned limbs, sandy sandals and a Campari and soda gracing the periphery of the frame. There was the little grocery store up the hill from our apartment on the Amalfi Coast that had the sweetest, tiniest strawberries and the best yogurt in little glass jars. Tomatoes drying in the sun, Aperol spritzes and salty peanuts before dinner at the bar across from the church square where all the neighborhood kids played kickball. As I sit here typing this now, photos remain scattered on my desk and it's likely they may not make it into the proper slots in the album anytime soon. Of course, they have me dreaming of sunshine and long days with little agenda, but they also have me thinking about the simplicity of our meals in Italy and how truly easy it was to eat well. Coincidentally, a few days ago Rachel Roddy's lusty new cookbook (can we call it lusty?!), My Kitchen in Rome, arrived at our doorstep. Clearly it was time to set the photos aside and get into the kitchen. 

Read More
Returning Home

Returning Home

And suddenly, it's fall. I find that realization always comes not so much with the dates on the calendar as it does the leaves on the ground, the first crank of the heat in the morning, the dusky light on the way home from an evening run. Because we were gone on the train for nearly a week, I feel like fall happened here in Seattle during that very time. I left town eating tomatoes and corn and returned to find squashes and pumpkins in the market. It was that quick. And so, it only seemed fitting that I make this soup, one that has graced the fall table of each and every apartment (and now house) I've ever lived. In fact, I'm surprised that I hadn't yet made it for you here, and delighted to share it with you today. 

Read More