Friday, April 13, 2012

Inspiration Inspection Interlude: Like Father?

There are several people who have imprinted themselves on my baking memory. From time to time I'll post a little bit about them.

Most people who delve into cooking and baking usually trace their love and desire for the art to their mothers/grandmothers/aunts. I'm a little different because I can draw my baking lineage directly to my father. True, my mother, grandmother and at least a couple of aunts all contributed to my interest in cooking – directly and indirectly – and I'll definitely be writing about that later. However, the first memories of baking that struck me with a sense of a sense of awe came from my father.

Sidebar: I often rail that so many popular films have as their central theme the father/son relationship. Star Wars comes to mind. Although I love the original trilogy, it gives short-shrift to mothers, as though they aren't important. And don't get me started on the "Prequels"! At any rate, here I am writing a food blog and the first post exploring my inspirations is about my father. How ironic. End sidebar.

It was the banana pudding.

My father, whose namesake I am, made the best banana puddings. He used the recipe from the Nilla Wafer box, I'm sure (I'll have to ask him). I always loved to hear the cookies hit the Pyrex pie plate when he started working on it; there was something about that sound and the smell of the cookies that just filled the air with promise. I rarely stuck around for the intermediate steps; I didn't watch him prep the bananas, whip the egg whites or combine it all in the plate. I didn't trail behind him to learn his baking secrets. I was an end-product kid, so I loved to watch him pull the finished pudding out of the oven. The meringue never failed to thrill me; it was always a perfectly browned and sculptured thing of beauty. It was always awesome.

And it took about ten years to cool enough to eat!

We had a conversation not too long ago in which he told me that not even his sisters could make better banana pudding than he could -- and they're good cooks. He had a knack for it.

There is a memory that will always stand front and center in my mind regarding my father's baking. I was at home for Christmas break during my first year of college. It was late on Christmas Eve and my mother had already prepped the bird and ham for the next day's meal. I was in our living room being entranced by Ahmad Jamal's "Poinciana", from the album "At The Pershing - But Not For Me". This was from my father's collection and I just simply fell in love with that song. My father was in the kitchen preparing to bake cookies and I managed to snap this picture – one of my favorites (please note the pastry blender in his right hand and the cookbook on the table - I spend a lot of time like that):


Between the sound of the music and the smells from the kitchen, it was a kind of magical moment. Thinking back on it, I've since come to realize a thing or two about my father and baking: following a recipe does not a great dessert make...being able to imbue it with love and passion each time is what does it. And that was what my father did, each and every time he baked for us (or made S.O.S. for us – he was in the Army, after all). Every pudding and every cookie was a way of showing his love. For that I'm truly grateful and I try to do the same for others with every dessert or meal I prepare. I think I've inherited his knack.

Thank you, Daddy.

Reactions:

10 comments:

  1. I love this post. And yes, not only do you spend a lot of time like that but while that's clearly your dad in the photo, the resemblance is striking.

    Also? Can you imagine a cookie box recipe now that called for *real meringue*? Not likely!

    Also, also?? I want that banana pudding!

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    1. Allow me to do some research (i.e. call my father to ask) about the recipe, love! :D I'll tell him you want some.

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  2. OK, I finally know where you got the title "playing Poinsiana."

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    1. Yes indeed! I was going to comment about that in the post but I thought better of it; this is a food blog, not a play writing blog!

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  3. Carlton, I love this post! For our next holiday gathering I think we should have a Banana Pudding "Baker" Best (bake off) between Uncle Carlton and the Baker Aunts :) Rita

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    1. Rita,

      I'll suggest it to Daddy and see what he says! And you'd better believe that I'll throw my toque into the ring, too!

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  4. Picture resemblance, way more than I remember...WOW! I still believe meringue is the right topper for Banana Pudding, but the Big Man demands whip cream.

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    1. Jen, he may demand it but he's wrong. Very, very wrong. Meringue for the win!

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  5. Beautiful! I look forward to reading more.

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    1. Thank you, Francesca. I'm glad you're enjoying it. There's more on the way!

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