Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Banana Cream Pie

My Life as a Frog
The summer of 1971 was a strange strange time, and not just because Richard Nixon was president.  It was also the summer that my older brother, Mark, convinced me that he was a warlock.   He wasn't a good and gentle Harry Potter.  Mark's vision of the wizarding world pretty much boiled down to one inexorable rule:  unless I did what he wanted, when he wanted, he would turn me into a frog.  Ribbit. In my defense, I was 7 and Bewitched was my favorite T.V. show.  It surely wasn't my fault that my 13-year-old brother was willing to mercilessly exploit my innocent imagination.  The time of the terror had begun. 

For weeks I was making two beds--his and mine.  Unwanted lima beans that usually would find their way to the floor for the dog were now scraped onto my plate with a menacing glare.  My tormentor knew no limits--he'd even shake me down for the dime my mother gave me for the ice cream truck.  I considered ratting him out, but in the end I feared that if I wasn't swimming with the fishes, I'd at least be perched on a lilly pad above their heads.   Better to lay low in silent suffering as I did his bidding. And then Mark did the unthinkable: he overplayed his hand.  He demanded that I give him my banana cream pie.

Banana cream pie was my first true love, and although it might likely be responsible for the cellulite on the back of my legs, it has never, ever, broken my heart.   Forget "I love you;" "banana cream pie" were the first 3 little words that caused my heart to race and swoon. Initially, banana cream pie was "company food,"--a dessert reserved for guests.  My mother would make it for a dinner party, and although I was banished to my bedroom during the adult festivities, once I heard the last echo of grown-up chatter, I would skulk into the kitchen for hopeful leftovers.  As time went by, I wizened up and starting asking that she make it for my birthday.  Out it would come, one glorious day each year, even festooned with flaming candles--the decadent creaminess of it mine, all mine.  Until the summer of 1971.  Like a crook whose discovered the perfect scam, Mark got greedy, and tried to extort my beloved pie. 

Oh, the injustice of it all.  Give up my banana cream pie or get turned into a frog?  It was beyond unfair, it was downright evil.  I was living in a totalitarian state even before I knew what that was.  The time had come to end the tyranny, to rise up, and challenge Big Brother.  I had to stand my ground.  Better to risk eternity as an amphibian than to suffer such deprivation.  I looked inward to summon all the courage I could muster, and like all kid sisters since the dawn of time, I screamed the one word that was to be my salvation that day, (and many more thereafter):  M-O-M-M-Y! 

I'm not sure what went through my mother's head when I threw myself into her protective arms screaming about frogs, warlocks, and magic.  No matter--my long national nightmare was over, even if Mark's had just begun.  After months of torture and blackmail I had my sweet revenge.  And just for the record--revenge IS a dish that tastes best cold--as cold, in fact, as banana cream pie.

Banana Cream Pie
By Mary C. Bailey

The Pie Crust

1.  Sift together, 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour,  1 and 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1 tsp salt in an 8 or 9 inch pie pan.

2.  Combine:  1/2 cup vegetable oil,  2 Tbs milk in a measuring cup, and whip with a fork.  

3.  Pour all at once in center of flour mixture, and mix with a fork. Press evenly with fingers to line bottom and sides of the pan.

4.  Prick the entire crust, and bake in a hot oven at 425 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Can you buy a pre-made store bought pie crust?  Sure.  But re-read this recipe--it is amazingly easy, and this pie crust comes out tasting like a giant shortbread cookie. The Pillsbury Dough Boy may be cute, but he's no match for this crust.

The Filling
1. For the  filling, mix the following together in a sauce pan:  2/3 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 and 1/2 Tbs corn starch, 1 Tbs Gold Medal flour. 

Gold Medal flour?  Really, mom?   It has to be Gold Medal flour?  I think I might live life on the edge and try King Arthur.  I'm crazy that way seeing how I narrowly escaped being turned into a frog--gives one a whole new perspective.

2. Gradually stir in:   3 cups milk
3.  Cook over moderate heat stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil (1) minute, remove from heat. Remove 1/2 of the mixture, and slowly stir it into 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten.

4.  Take the egg-yolked mixture and blend in back into the hot mixture in the sauce pan. Boil (1) minute more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

5.  Blend in:  1 Tbs butter, 1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla
6.  Cool...stirring occasionally, or a thick film will form on the top of your cream mixture.

7.  Arrange a layer of sliced bananas 1/2 inch deep in the pie shell.  Don't ruin a perfectly good cream filling with the wrong bananas.  If the bananas are too green, the pie will taste the same way.  Conversely, if the bananas are too brown, your pie will have a bottom layer of brown sludge, and let's face it, no one wants to eat brown sludge.  The bananas should be bright yellow--no green and no brown.

8.  Pour cooled filling over bananas, and chill thoroughly.

Remove chilled pie from refrigerator 20 min. before serving, and if you want to pretend that because it has bananas in it it's healthy, go ahead and serve it up with fresh whipped cream.

Epilogue:  Some things in life change, and some things in life stay the same.  Mark has morphed from an evil nemesis into one of my best friends, and  I still love banana cream pie.  Today is my birthday, and if my mother was here, I'm sure she would make it for me.  Unfortunately, even if her heart is in the right place, the rest of her is hundreds of miles away, so she can't.  Not to worry.  My husband has discovered a local bakery that gets it almost as good as mom's so I don't have to suffer the ignominy of making my own birthday pie.  For local followers, the banana cream pie at the Pie Gourmet in Vienna is worth every penny--all 2,000 of them.   

1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday! Thank you for the wonderful recipe. I will get my chef/baker on this as soon as possible.

    Let us know when you're able to have a night out at Bistro. We've been talking about that for weeks.

    Miss you!