Several years ago, shortly after a girlfriend and I discovered Paula Deen (just after she started her cooking show), our families would get together for dinner and we would have a Paula party. Every dish was a Paula dish, and it was a heart attack on a table, I'm sure. We've both since tired of Paula a little (I know I have), but there are a few dishes that haunt me still, her banana pudding being one of them.
I was not raised on banana pudding like some folks. Instead, my mother made banana cream pie with vanilla wafer crust and fresh whipped cream on top. Basically the same dish in a different form. But, since I was not fed banana pudding in the high chair, I have no preconceived notions about the taste and texture. This dish mixes up those notions, if you have them, because the texture is thicker, and the taste a little tangier, from the cream cheese. But, I love it -- it's sweet, and creamy, and comforting.
Last night there was a gathering of women at a girlfriend's house, and the hostess requested that I be one of two people bringing desserts. Everyone else was bringing appetizers. No pressure there -- two desserts and one is mine. I know that my hostess doesn't eat cheesecake (can't even imagine), and I was really at a loss for something that would please a crowd, but not be too homey. I went through my recipes and had almost settled on a Twinkie Tiramisu (I know — twinkies, but it's gooood), when I remembered Paula's Banana Pudding. It's common enough for a crowd and dressy enough for a party. Unbeknownst to me, my hostess doesn't eat bananas either, and the other dessert bearer brought a creamy something or another. I now have a half dozen servings of banana pudding in my refrigerator. It's a good thing it's so good for breakfast!
You can find this recipe on the Food Network's website, here, and I follow all the directions except I use real whipped cream instead of cool whip, and I layer differently. I put half the cookies down, half the bananas, half the cream, the other half of the bananas, the other half of the cream, and then the rest of the cookies. Confused? Don't worry, you can't mess this one up (other than calling it what Paula calls it, and I just can't do that).