My First and Last Banana Cream Pie


Post by community member:

It was 1961. My eighth grade foods class teacher, Mrs. Pankratz assigned two girls to each mini-kitchen to cook some basic stuff. She tutored us while we created scrambled eggs, brownies, muffins, tuna casserole, and more. She was all business, but nevertheless inspiring. Each session she handed out mimeographed copies of her favorite teenager-doable recipes for our notebooks; ones that we couldn’t accomplish during the short time in class, but were encouraged to try at home.

When the year was over, I was ready to cook for the world. Well, at least for my family. And I had a notebook full of Mrs. Pankratz’ favorites. How could I go wrong? So with mom’s permission I set out to create an old fashioned banana cream pie. Mom made sure I had all the ingredients at hand, then temporarily entrusted the kitchen to me.

First the crust. Having had previous crust experience, I mixed, rolled, formed, and pre-baked a lovely light flaky crust. Yay, me! My confidence level was a high as I continued on to the next step.

For the custard filling I combined sugar, flour and salt in the medium sized sauce pan, and slowly added scalded milk as per directions. Perfect!

Recipe: Meanwhile separate the eggs and set them aside for later use.
Recipe: Cook the milk mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly. When thick and bubbly, reduce the heat and cook for two more minutes.
Recipe: Remove the pan from heat. Pour the egg yolks into the sauce pan and mix well.

Ok. So, I seem to have missed the part where the recipe tells you to pour a little of the milk mixture into the slightly beaten egg yolks, BEFORE adding them to the hot milk mixture. (This tempering slowly warms the eggs and prevents them from scrambling when added to anything hot. Of course you already knew that. But I didn’t.)

Those whole egg yolks hit the hot milk and started to hard-cook before my eyes! In a panic, I grabbed the spoon and started beating the mixture as hard as I could. Maybe if I caught it soon enough and beat fast enough, I could stop what was happening! My arm burned. My pulse raced. I remembered that I’m ambidextrous. I switched arms and kept going.

I punished that pudding for what seemed like an eternity, until my big sister happened by. She stirred it and tried to help, but as I recall, was totally cracking up at my predicament. A minute later, mom arrived and matter-of-factly enlightened me about tempering eggs. She shooed Sis out and encouraged me, saying that maybe it would be just fine; not to worry. She told me to stop beating up on the custard and move on. Then she vanished again. I did as she said, but my confidence level had taken a hit.

Turning to my lovely pie crust, I arranged banana slices in overlapping circles just so, and poured the pale yellow liquid from the pan into the shell. Wispy, beat-up bits of egg plopped in as I poured.

After dinner, instead of the dessert plates, mom got out the ice cream bowls and spoons. She brought my pie to the table and proudly announced, “Vicki made dessert tonight.” Into each bowl she placed a wedge of banana covered crust and ladled (ladled!) in some of the filling.

I looked down at my dessert. There was pie crust sticking up on one side. The rest looked like soup. I dipped my spoon in and took a bite. The family did the same. Okay, the crust and bananas were good. And taking mom’s lead, we all agreed that the filling “really wasn’t bad at all.” The texture was kind of creamy and somewhat edible. (If you could get past those little chewy bits of scrambled egg suspended in there!) I was too embarrassed to look up from my bowl. No confidence left.

What a family. Ya have to love ’em. They got really quiet. But they ate. Nobody gagged. Nobody complained. Everybody cleaned their bowls.

As usual, my sister and I did the dishes. Somehow, she managed to lift my spirits. We fished out and ate the remaining banana slices, then happily chucked my leftover “pie” down the garbage disposal. It wasn’t so funny then, but nowadays when we think about it, Sis and I split our sides laughing. I wonder what Mrs. Pankratz would have thought.

Did I mention that my mom was a high school home economics teacher? Head of her department, no less. And an excellent cook. I suppose this explains her calm, authoritative guidance. But why didn’t she just have me start the custard over? Maybe she thought the life lesson was more important than a perfect dessert. Maybe she wanted to drive home the egg-tempering thing. Maybe we were out of milk. Who knows…

Now, I know I can’t be the only person with a kitchen disaster in their past, so I’m thinking maybe you can relate. This disaster was met with kindness, positive attitudes and good humor, and I hope yours were, too.

The thing is, I don’t even LIKE banana cream pie. What was I thinking?

Vicki can also be found at Oak Park Community Garden.

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  1. Lacey says:

    My first summer as arts and crafts leader at a residential summer camp in Malibu, I decided we should make ice cream. An edible craft! Perfect!

    I had no idea what I was doing. I tried to follow a recipe but a lack of cooperation from the kitchen in getting needed supplies had me improvising and stressed out. One of my main concerns was that we were not combining, heating, and then freezing our ingredients before using, but putting them directly into the barrel of the machine. Our first time using the hand-crank machine (I won’t tell the story about the very first time when we “shook” our ice cream in ziplocs- apparently the baggies don’t hold up well to the sharp pieces of salt. Salty ice cream anyone?) we just cracked the eggs and dropped them right in. After adding a few more ingredients and taking turns cranking, we ended up with what appeared to be pretty decent looking ice cream. As our machine made more ice cream then the little group at arts and crafts could eat, we had people from all over camp wating. The lucky ones got to be the first to try it- and found frozen chunks of egg! Apparently, you should beat the eggs prior to mixing them in with the rest of the ingredients!

    All in all, it actually was good. If you could get past the bits of egg in the vanilla goodness. And we had fun with that story for at least two summers. I’m not sorry at all. Memories are much better than perfection. I hope those campers and staff think of that ice cream and remember the fun summers we had.

    Oh, that was long! Sorry!

  2. NorthCountryGirl says:

    Oh Vicki, I can so relate. When I was a girl, my job was to have supper ready when Mom and Dad got home from work. Well, this one day I was supposed to make meatloaf for supper. Problem was, I didn’t remember to lay out the meat to defrost until too late. NOW WHAT? Mom and Dad would be home in awhile and the meat was barely defrosted. So, I scraped and scraped the meat until I got about a cip of half-frozen hamburger loose. I quickly added lots of spices and bread crumbs and oatmeal. About a 1:4 ratio of meat to filler. Popped ot quickly in the oven and hoped for the best. Well, Mom found the still-frozen meat in the fridge and scolded me for not laying it out on time. I felt really bad. We sat down to eat and I cringed. Mom and Dad looked at each other and smiled. My dad, bless him, said, “You know, for not having much meat in it, that’s the best meatloaf I’ve ever ate. Everyone else agreed. HUH??? To this day, I don’t remember what I tossed in the meatloaf but I’m so glad it worked out. Oh, and I usually remember to lay the meat out to unthaw. USUALLY…

  3. Tow Lady says:

    What a great story! I had to laugh while reading it because it brought back memories of some of my more memorable recipe failures. They’re some of the most fun to laugh about…now. I wasn’t laughing much then, lol. Thanks for a great start to my day!

  4. JoLinda says:

    I remember my mother wanted to make Deviled Eggs one day. She asked my sister to get the eggs and put them in the water which she did. Of course I watched and snickered as she cracked every single egg into the pot of water. She still can’t cook to this day either.

  5. princessvanessa says:

    My mom was a wonder in the kitchen. Living in western Washington (state), however, can take a real toll on certain candies as they will not set and dry properly if it is too rainy and humid. I mean, come on, that is almost all it ever does in western Washington….rain; in fact, the weathermen even have terms for the amount and density of the rain. But that’s another story.
    Through it all mom would try to make candy for her family. Dad’s favorite was divinity. She would not try this on torrential rain days. Most times her candy efforts were successful; the off times she offered her family the barely firm results of her efforts.
    Mom had a two word name for these “failures” caused by the humidity…..SPOON CANDY. Candy that was scooped up with a big tablespoon and then you licked the spoon clean. No double-dipping allowed so you loaded your spoon high.
    We were too poor to just throw away the less than perfect candy, but I will tell you that Spoon Candy was just as tasty as the candy that conformed and dried and set up.

  6. Pete says:

    Great stories, all! Will share one of my faves.

    I must have been about 11 when we decided that a German Chocolate Cake would be very nice for the family. So, we got the ingredients, with the recipe for the cake on the package of chocolate.

    We do not to this day know what happened to the cake. It was baked in a 9 x 13 pan, but it did NOT form cake! It was sticky, gooey, and obviously would never be cake. Meanwhile, the frosting was finished, so I just frosted the goo in the pan, and we ate it anyway. Dad commented that it was really good, but he wished no one had said it was supposed to be cake!

  7. whaledancer says:

    Great story, Vicki! So, did you dislike banana cream pie before that day, or only afterwards?

    With a lifetime’s worth of cooking disasters under my belt, I only recall two times I didn’t eat the results. The first was when I made pancakes from a recipe in a 1900 cookbook that assumed you knew to add salt and baking powder. Oops! But I still think it was cruel of the boys to play frisbee with them.

    The worst was my first and last attempt to make angel food cake. To this day I don’t know what went wrong, but the finished product was 1/4 inch high and impenetrable. Ever frugel, my sister & I took a hammer to it to make crumbs for the birds. Uh-uh. The hammer just bounced off. My sister suggested I had discovered a new substance and should report it to NASA for the space program. I’ve been afraid to try recipes calling for beaten egg whites ever since. Although after nearly 50 years, I think I may be getting my confidence back, and might be ready to try again.

  8. Miss Judy says:

    I’ve had so many disasters but the one my DH laughs over is when I tried to get fancy with my deviled eggs.I had to take 46 deviled eggs to a supper at church. So I decided to use one of those fancy electric “cookie press shooter thingys” to fill them. I was going along just fine…thinking what a genius I was…saving so much time . Then…the filling started coming out a little faster…and it wouldn’t stop! it got faster and faster…I was screeching “Oh, Oh, Oh …”and I couldn’t get the filling to stop shooting out!I couldn’t move the thing fast enough… each egg was filling up like mountain peaks and spilling over. In a panic I put my finger over the tip thinking I could stop the oozing. NOT! I had yellow stringy globs of egg on the cabinets, table, floor and all over myself! My DH was laughing so hard he could hardly find the strength to unplug the devil machine! Never used that contraption again!

  9. Vicki in So. CA says:

    Thanks for all the great responses. They are priceless! Truly, I got a LOL from every one.

    whaledancer: It was never one of my favorites, but I don’t think I’ve eaten it since then. And that was over 50 years ago! Maybe I need therapy. 🙂

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