I have always had this thing for Southern people. I don't know exactly what it is about them, but I tend to collect them much in the same way I collect Canadians and Edward Gorey first editions. Maybe it was my obsession with Gone with The Wind at age nine, or maybe it was the fact that, at the age of five, I insisted I was a Southerner because I was from Southern California and could argue that Anaheim was at approximately the same latitude as Atlanta, Georgia.. There are lots of reasons, really, but none of them are really very important.
The lady-- and I do mean lady-- in the above photograph was very, very Southern. Her name was Elsieberry King. Elsieberry-- you just can't get more Southern than that. She was the best friend of my best friend's mother in Greensboro, North Carolina. In some circles, that makes us practically related. Sadly, I never got to meet her, but my friend mentions her from time to time and has nothing but fond memories of this woman and, because of him, I have them too, even though mine are entirely made up.
I know very little about her apart from her fondness for her "wickuh, silvuh, and pewtuh." And her penchant for making banana pudding. My friend Jay's family, the Floyds, and the Kings rented a beach house together every summer. And every summer, there would be an enormous batch of banana pudding, made by Mrs. King, sitting on the kitchen counter to greet Jay and his sisters. And that tradition never changed. In later years, no matter what troubles my friend was facing in his life, if he walked into that beach house and saw a big dish of banana pudding sitting on that counter, he somehow knew that everything was going to be just fine. Pudding has that sort of power, apparently.
Banana pudding is something relatively new to me-- a gaping hole in my Southern repertoire. I've mastered fried chicken, I make killer greens and lickuh, and getting better at biscuits every day. But I've never tackled banana pudding until recently, when Jay sent shot me an email that included Elsieberry's famous recipe, which her husband found stuck in an old book, passed it along to his daughter, who then sent it to Jay, who sent it to me, who was going to send it to you.
And then I read the recipe.