Recipe for Disaster

lee-ann-bananaSometimes a banana is just a banana.

By Lee Ann “Sunny” Brown //Photo by Billy Brown

It’s that time of the year again to go through my recipes and find the family favorites that everyone expects to see on the Thanksgiving table.

There are a few dishes that must show up on our table or we don’t call the meal Thanksgiving, we just call it lunch. Those are my grandmother’s brown rice, a pecan pie, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole and of course, turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce. These are the exact same six dishes that I make Every. Single. Year. So why then do I spend two days sifting through hundreds of recipes?

Every year at the beginning of November I haul out my five-pound binder of recipes that I have collected over the years and begin to sift through them for the Thanksgiving favorites. This is a major undertaking, one that I vow every year to do in March but never seem to be able to get around to until the two weeks before I need them.

I realize that I could just go straight to the holiday section of my binder and get the Thanksgiving recipes and not spend the time going through the whole thing, but I would miss taking the trip down memory lane and revisiting all of my favorite recipes that I have never made but that I plan on making one day, like the molded French cream with crystalized violas and sweet peas that I saved from a 1999 Southern Living. Just because I haven’t made it even once in the 15-plus years that I’ve been saving it doesn’t mean I am not going to make it someday. I am absolutely planning to make it one day, I swear.

If I actually made all of the recipes that I have saved over the years and plan to make one day, I would be as large and stuffed as my recipe binder has grown to be. Thank goodness I don’t cook. As anyone who reads this column regularly knows, I only cook and bake during the holidays, and even then it’s the same dishes every year.

It’s rare to change anything about the Thanksgiving menu. However, this year I decided that I would like to include my mom’s famous banana pudding. It’s actually an old family favorite passed down from my great, great Aunt Lizzy, but somehow my mom became the guardian of the recipe. I never met Aunt Lizzy (although I was deathly afraid of her portrait that hung in our dining room growing up after my older brother told me it was haunted and that her eyes moved). My mom is the only one who has ever made the banana pudding for us so we all consider it hers. I absolutely love my mom’s banana pudding! Everyone in the family does. No one will eat any other banana pudding. One time someone showed up at the house with a banana pudding after my uncle passed away and my cousin, Gary, took it straight from the woman’s hands to the trash can and dumped the whole thing in there. It wasn’t mom’s. We feel very strongly about this. Of course, deciding to make this dish added about six hours to my recipe search.

I was so excited when I finally came across the recipe card with “Mom’s Banana Pudding Recipe” on it, written in her handwriting, too. My mom has lovely handwriting.

Then, I read it. Then I read it again. Then I had to read it again. I have long felt that some people will just feel so honored to share their recipe when you ask them for it and they will hand it over to you with the sweetest smile on their face, all the while knowing that they have left out the single most important ingredient that makes it so special. I just never expected that my own mother would be one of those people. Maybe I should have expected it, though. After all, she doesn’t cook, either, so the fact that she is known for a delicious recipe and was not reluctant to share it should have made me suspicious. Still, I was surprised that she left out bananas. She also left out any mention of actual measurements or the baking time. When I asked her about it, her actual words to me were “Well, hell, I thought you knew it had bananas; after all, it is banana pudding.”

I guess she had a point.

She then wrote the recipe for me again, this time including the bananas and, I detected, just a hint of sarcasm when she made a point of instructing me to peel the bananas first. Cooking disaster avoided!

I followed her recipe to the letter and it tastes just like it always does including the sweet taste of family. Thanks for sharing, Mom.

Check out for my Mom’s Banana Pudding recipe (includes the bananas)!

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