Food is a powerful association tool for me. Whether it is remembering what I loved about visiting a new city or recalling a memory from childhood, the taste of sweet and savory flavors help bring me back to a certain point in time. And for me, the smooth creaminess of banana pudding holds a strong association with New York City.
My parents brought my sister and me to New York for the first time when I was in middle school. I always had an odd fascination with New York and the life of a city-person. Growing up in the suburbs of Southern California, I idolized images I would see in movies or ads of Manhattanites wearing crisp winter coats running down the stairs of an oddly-clean subway station to catch the oncoming train. The naive and younger version of me thought winter coats and public transportation were a desirable change from my non-seasonal wardrobe and parent-chauffeured transportation.
Nonetheless, my rosy impression of New York City was quickly shattered when my family and I attempted to navigate our way into the city from LaGuardia Airport. The following are a few takeaways from that experience: (1) do not try to get into the city via public transportation from LaGuardia Airport, (2) subway stations are NOT as clean as they appear in the movies, and (3) New Yorkers are much better at ignoring people than Californians.
Despite the disappointment from realizing that the reality of city-living was different from what I had imagined, New York City did have a redeeming quality that left a strong impression–being home to good food. My sister, a self-proclaimed foodie, had heard of a place called Magnolia Bakery and made it a point that we try their banana pudding before we left. As the spoonful of creamy goodness filled my mouth, I remember being engulfed in a moment of happiness, thinking to myself that this was the best thing I had ever eaten. Looking back, perhaps I was a bit overly dramatic, but to my middle-school self who hadn’t seen much outside of SoCal suburbia, a lot of things would make me overly dramatic.
Now years later, the fascination with winter coats and public transportation has worn off as New York City has become my new home, but the taste of Magnolia Bakery’s banana pudding never fails to bring me back to the time when the now-familiar buildings and streets were once foreign and unknown to me. And with that, I guess it is only fitting to attempt to home-make the dessert that allowed me to hold on to the charm of New York City so many years ago.
(Recipe courtesy of POPSUGAR)
- 1 ½ cups water
- ⅔ cup instant vanilla pudding mix
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 3 cups heavy cream
- 1 (12-ounce) box vanilla wafers
- 4 bananas, sliced
- Mix together the water, pudding mix, and sweetened condensed milk until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight until it sets.
- Whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Working in thirds, fold the whipped cream into the pudding mixture until well incorporated.
- In your serving dish, layer vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, and pudding mixture; continue until you’ve used up all the pudding mixture. Refrigerate for at least another 30 minutes before serving.