SUMMER IS ABOUT HERE, AND IT'S AS GOOD A TIME as ever to come clean about something from my past. In 1977, my senior year of high school, I went to extraordinary lengths to avoid class. On one such occasion, I, along with most of the football team, chose to participate in the Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow exam. A test on family economic issues was a small price to pay for a few hours of escaping class.
Imagine my surprise when it was announced that I was the recipient of that year’s Miss Betty Crocker Award. For my yearbook picture, I posed in the gym weight room in a weak attempt to blunt the challenge to my manhood.
While I never expected to receive a homemaking award, I have always tried to learn from good cooks. I am never more reminded of my love for cooking than during the month of June. For me, this month brings memories of going to the garden and “shopping for dinner” the old-fashioned way. Here are some of my favorite summertime foods:
Better Boy tomatoes (gotta be local), picked that day, still warm from the sun. For the ideal sandwich, place a single, large tomato slice in between two pieces of white bread coated with Duke’s mayonnaise and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Silver Queen corn, boiled and saturated with salt, pepper and butter. Someone once told me that the very best way to enjoy Silver Queen is to have a pot boiling right there in the field so you can start cooking the moment the ears are shucked and silked.
Fried and boiled okra. Cut small and tender. I love to eat it, but I hate to cut it.
Real banana pudding—warm and homemade.
Biscuits. Truly great biscuit recipes start with buttermilk and end with a flaky, powder-dusted top.
Graveled new potatoes—small, tender potatoes harvested early. Boil and add salt, pepper and butter.
Fried chicken livers—not too heavy on the breading.
Deviled eggs—mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Sprinkle with paprika.
These are just a few of the “Southern staples” that come to mind. Below, I'm sharing my favorite banana pudding reciple. It’s delicious, and I should know—I am, after all, a Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow.
Original Banana Pudding
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2–3 ripe bananas
1 box vanilla wafers
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the top portion of a double boiler, mix flour and ½ cup sugar. Separate egg yolks and reserve whites for topping. With a spoon or whisk, beat flour, sugar and egg yolks until smooth. Bring the double boiler water to a boil. Add milk to flour mixture, stirring until smooth. Reduce heat to medium and stir constantly for about 10 minutes, until mixture thickens. Reduce heat to low and stir in vanilla. Set custard mixture aside. In an 8-inch-by-8-inch baking dish, layer vanillawafers. Slice bananas on top and spread custard on top of bananas. Add another layer of wafers.
Beat egg whites on medium speed until they begin to form peaks. Add ½ cup sugar and continue to beat until thick and glossy. Spread over prepared pudding mixture. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until topping is nicely browned.