The Banana Cream Pie Bailout

Often times, we underestimate the power of a good act. A kindness shown to a stranger can sometimes create a forward moving wave of good will far in excess of its original intent. We all have experienced a sense of well being at being the recipient of kindness or compassion that makes us more desirous to be compassionate and kind to others, barring the occasional odd sociopath among us.

As I like to put an optimistic spin on my perceptions of life anyway, I’ll give my wife complete credit for Monday’s 900+ point run up of the Dow Industrial average on Wall Street. That’s right, the credit is all hers. The secret really isn’t that much of a secret, but in the interest of worldwide economic improvement, I’ll share it here. She made a Banana Cream Pie. Not any banana cream pie, but The Best Banana Cream Pie.  Ever.

I can already feel some of the doubt building out there, but I promise, if you wait a minute or two, you’ll feel that swell of dopamine surging through your brain, just making you feel better. And it is all about the pie. So give credit where credit is due.

My wife has always been a pretty good cook, but somewhere along the way, as she discovered that my favorite food is pumpkin pie, she set out to bake great pumpkin pie. I got through at least two years of college eating a piece of pumpkin pie from the union building cafeteria just about every school day. It was cheap, probably only 40 or 50 cents, back in the day. It just tasted good, and with real whipped cream, it made my school work better, because I felt better. I worked harder, more intelligently, and while the rest of the country was wallowing in the final year of the Watergate misery, I was scoring A’s in my senior course work, fueled by my own personal “Era of Good Feelings”.

I had married Kate by then, and while she also taught school, she duplicated and then improved on the pumpkin pie I ate at college. It still remains my favorite food, and as we lurch through uncertain economic times and a looming presidential election, the fall has the promise of even more pumpkin pie.

Which brings me up to Sunday Night, and the Banana Cream Bailout. Kate loves pumpkin pie, but her favorites are cream pies, like coconut cream, or chocolate cream, or on this night, Banana Cream Pie. Pie making is a little bit of an art, not just following a recipe. If you read the cookbooks, they will generally get you something that looks like a pie, but until you learn exactly how to cut the shortening into the flour, your crusts won’t be as flaky, and will probably burn a bit around the edges. An overworked crust is an underachieving pie. You have to know when to quit so that the dough, when it gets rolled out, isn’t just a greasy ball of dough that tastes like the pies you get at Denny’s.

So Kate is very good at pie crusts, and when she said Sunday night she would make a pumpkin pie for me, she would also make a banana cream pie for her. It all sounded good to me. She carefully prepared the dough, gently cutting the shortening in with a pastry knife, then rolling out the balls of dough into circles with her thirty five year old hard maple rolling pin. She folded the dough into quarters, then carefully lifted it into the glass pie pans for baking.

Meanwhile, she had also been working on the fillings. Pumpkin is pretty easy. You can read the instructions on the side of the Libby’s pumpkin can, and pretty much get it right. But she takes liberties with banana cream. The recipes call for eggs, sugar, and milk (or condensed milk), which makes a passable pie. Kate, however, carefully blends the eggs, then adds Costco heavy whipping cream, and stirring it the banana cream pudding mix. A layer of fresh cut bananas goes in the bottom of the pie shell, and then the filling is added and baked. The result is sometimes a little runnier, certainly not as healthy as a pie made with 2%, but if you are eating pie, you ought to be in it for the whole experience, and artery-clogging non-soluble fats ought to be the first choice of the consumer.

Finally, after baking and cooling, no cans of pressurized Ready Whip or frozen Cool Whip topping will do. We have an old-school charger, which we fill with the heavy whipping cream and shoot full of nitrous oxide, along with a touch of vanilla, and perhaps some powdered sugar, but usually not. You shake the charger, and then dispense luscious, rich, whipped cream directly on to your slice of banana cream pie.

We had invited our married kids over for pie, but with schedules and commitments, they could not make it Sunday night. That left the whole of the Banana Cream Pie, and the Pumpkin Pie, and the Peach Pie, all for the two of us. Our youngest son was working a graveyard shift that night, and he didn’t discover the pies until the next night.

So as I lifted my fork, and brought the world’s best banana cream pie to my taste buds, I forgot all about credit swap defaults, and toxic mortgage securities. The subsequent wave of good feeling and joy swept quickly from our house, engulfed the unsuspecting neighborhood and rushed westward, over the Pacific where the Asian markets began to rally. On with the sunrise, the sense that all was right if the world could just get enough Banana Cream Pie washed over the Indian subcontinent, enhancing the medication of mystics, creating a moment of peaceful thought in the Mideast, and then conquering Europe with the smell of cream, vanilla, and bananas. The French thought it somehow sexual, and the Germans found it eminently practical and timely.

Over the Atlantic it now fairly roared, and crashed upon the beaches of the American continent, flooding over lower Manhattan and pouring in cascades into the trading floors of Wall Street. The highest swells reached even to the upper floors of the office buildings, and then freed from the momentary obstructions of the East Coast Metroplex, slowly rolled in ever slowing ripples across the entire country.

An hour or two after dinner, the Banana Cream Bailout finally ebbed as it hit the Seattle suburbs, where it had started just 24 hours earlier, and I sat down and ate a second leftover piece on Monday night. All was right in the world, and we’d recovered at least a portion of our retirement savings. And it was great pie. I’ll let you know when Kate makes it again, but you can probably pick up the signs on your own, if you’re observant.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: