Dueling Aunts


This story was written as an assignment for Story Circle. The assignment was to write anything about tables. I have so many thoughts about my family and tables, it was hard to choose. However, this story came to mind. My Aunts, all of them are great. These two are terribly important to me. I hope you enjoy it!

Dueling Aunts
It is important to realize that each family get-together in my life involved a meal. Guaranteed, there is no better fare than that which is put out by Southern families. In my family, it was all about the food and what we called “fellowship.” I had a favorite Aunt on each side of the family, both known for putting out a great spread. (A spread is Southern talk for a table full of food)
On my mother’s side of the family there was Aunt Doris who was married to my mother’s brother. She made a signature meal of chicken pie, vegetable casserole and homemade banana pudding and sweetened iced tea. Everything was made from scratch. (By the way, I never said it was low calorie.)
On my father’s side was my Aunt Mary Ruth and she was married to my father’s brother. She too cooked from scratch and she had a garden. She was well-known for her large meals that often included two meats, many fresh vegetables, biscuits and cornbread, fresh sliced tomatoes and 2 or 3 kinds of pie and cake and sweetened iced tea. She was also celebrated for her rice and gravy. Her meals often included homemade banana pudding, particularly if my father was to be there.
When I visited North Carolina as a child, these visits and meals were always included. I thought everybody did this. As I got older, I began to realize that these were special events and extraordinary times.
My father bragged about each aunt’s Banana Pudding. In fact, he insists that each one thought hers was the best and each one tried to outdo the other. This is my father’s take on the situation, not mine. Either way, as far as I know, he was always rewarded in his quest for the best as each Aunt always remembered to make him a Banana Pudding.
One time my Aunt Doris had the nerve to change her recipe. She modernized the recipe using cool whip of all things and did not make the classic meringue that the dish is known for. She did not tell us she did it but everyone could see that the new banana pudding did not have meringue because a dish covered in cool whip lacks the brown edges of meringue. No one spoke a word, and everyone received a serving as usual. Not only did not have the usual brown tipped meringue, it was right out of the refrigerator. Everyone silently wondered if it would taste as good as it usually did. What was she thinking? Change? At her age? “The new recipe is so much easier than the old one,” she later explained. Easier? Since when did she go in for easier?
Everyone dug into their serving. The room was quiet as everyone savored each bite of the cool, delicious, creamy sweetness. The crispiness of the vanilla wafers added a nice contrast to the smoothness of the pudding and cool whip. Then came the big moment. My father asked for seconds! The new recipe was deemed a success. Is the new recipe better than Aunt Mary Ruth’s tried and true pudding with the homemade meringue? That is a subject still up for debate.

Aunt Doris’s recipe appears below. (printed with permission)

Banana Pudding
3 sm or 2 lg instant vanilla pudding
5 cups dairy milk
1 8oz ctn sour cream
1 9oz ctn cool whip, Vanilla wafers and bananas
Hand mix pudding +milk until smooth. Add sour cream + cool whip.
Layer wafers, bananas and pudding mix
(9’x13” dish)

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3 Responses to Dueling Aunts

  1. Louise Weaver says:

    No, assembling packaged ingredients did not and does not count for a home cooked item. There weren’t any packaged foods when Grandmother was cooking, and from her point of view, why pay more for the packaged food when home made is just as easy.

    She had time, that’s why she could and we can’t. Better yet, buy the whole pie already made from the bakery. I have found that to be very easy and fool proof.

    As far as southern cooking goes, nothing beats it. That’s right. Sugar, ham hocks, grits and biscuits. My other grandmother made biscuits every meals. She reached under the kitchen sink and pulled out a four gallon steel bowl full of flour. She poured an unmeasured amount of milk into the center of the mound, stirred and kneaded it to a dough that she threw onto the counter and rolled out. The four bowl she placed back under the kitchen sink, about two cups less full. It was a mystery to me how the biscuits were perfect. It still is.

  2. Sheila McNaughton says:

    Loved the title and how your Dad got just what he wanted!

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