• 70°

Mamas and Banana Puddings

By By Lloyd Albritton
Nobody makes old fashioned banana pudding like southern women, and as far as every southern man or boy is concerned, nobody makes banana pudding like his own mama. My mother made banana pudding to die for. I can't eat as much old fashioned banana pudding as I could when I was a boy because my delicate digestive system has a problem digesting practically anything I like anymore, especially banana pudding. In fact, the best guide I have these days to healthy eating is just this simple: if it's good, it's got to be bad for me; and the worse it tastes, the better it is for me.
When my family had special company for dinner, Mama always served her specialty dish, banana pudding. Mama always loved the young Mormon missionaries because they were not much older than her own boys and she felt sorry for them being so far from their homes and not having their mamas to cook for them every day, so when she scheduled the boys to visit us for dinner on Saturday evening, she made a huge banana pudding on Friday and put it in the ice box to chill.
That Friday night my high school football team at Ernest Ward had a game away at Grand Bay. In those days we traveled to our games in one of the regular school buses, which were governed to limit their speed to abut 50 mph. Consequently, the bus trip to Grand Bay and back was a long trip. The football team usually stayed after school on the day of the game and we were served dry spam sandwiches and mashed potatoes without gravy in the school lunchroom prior to our departure. For the voracious appetite of a growing teenage boy, this meal was about like a dime's worth of gas in an empty tank.
That night we played a hard game and won, and we were a bunch of tired, hungry boys as we boarded the old school bus for the return trip home. It was after midnight as the bus passed through Perdido on Highway 31 on its way to Atmore, then on to our school in Walnut Hill, where players would be picked up by their families.
I lived in Nokomis, a rural community just east of Perdido which spanned parts of Alabama and Florida. Since I did not have a ride home from the school, I disembarked the bus at the Nokomis exit off Highway 31 and ran the five miles or so over the dirt roads and through the woods to my home. It was after 2:00 A.M. by the time I got home and I was tired and hungry. My family were all in bed, so I quietly peeked into the ice box to find something to eat, and hark! you can imagine my surprise when I saw Mama's huge banana pudding with the rippled, oven-browned, egg-white icing sitting right there on the center shelf. Oh, it looked so good!
I did not know that Mama had invited the missionaries over for dinner the following evening, and that she had made this special pudding for that occasion, but even if I had known about it, I'm not sure it would have made any difference in my subsequent actions. When I saw that pudding sitting there, I lost all control. I took one bite out of the corner (who would notice just one bite?). That bite led to another, and then another, and before I knew it, I had eaten the whole darned thing. Well, not the whole thing exactly. I did not want to make a hog of myself by eating the whole thing, so I left a token spoonful in the far corner of the bowl and stuck it back into the refrigerator.
I was awakened in the morning by Mama's angry shout, "Oh My God! Who ate my banana pudding?" When I heard her words, I felt guilt for the first time as I realized what I had done. It was not fear I felt upon hearing my mother's angry outcry, as would have been the case if it had been my father's voice, for I never feared my mother. I got out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen where my mother stood with the refrigerator door open looking at her decimated pudding.
"I ate it Mama," I confessed. "I thought you made it for me."
Mama sighed and laughed as she looked at my skinny, but protruding stomach. "You ate the whole thing?" she asked in wonderment. "Lord, you must have been hungry son."
"I was Mama," I replied with my best pitiful voice. "I was so-o-o hungry."
Mama immediately calmed down and patted me on the arm and said, "Well, if you were that hungry, then I guess I did make it for you. It's alright. I'll just make another one."
And she did. She made another banana pudding for our guests that night at supper and I was not denied my regular share. My mother died in 1986 at the age of 57. When I think of her today I remember how good that banana pudding was-but mostly, I remember how good she was.