Sampling Bananas Foster at Jen Leo's Vegas wedding recently got me thinking. I shared the excitement of watching the wait staff prepare the sweet dessert. There was lots of eager anticipation, and people would say to each other with awe and surprise, "Bananas Foster? They're making it?" True, it can be so much fun to see the alcohol flames quickly shoot up and die out as the bananas caramelize. Bananas Foster should be made for friends and family on festive occasions. In my past, I had let it turn into something else.
I'm thrilled to have new memories associated with Bananas Foster. I first learned to make the dessert table side in cooking school. The instructor was a retired restaurateur who loved to freely sample booze before and during class. Not that I judged him too much. My own reality felt only slightly less pitiful. I had broken up with a long term live-in boyfriend and moved home to my folks place ("just for a few months" I said). I felt like a loser for many reasons. By the time I'd reach their house late each night after class, the family oddball cat would sit with me in the dark, with the TV usually glazing in the background. Sometimes I'd read notes from class, or thumb through cookbooks. I also went through a serious Bananas Foster phase, where I decided to whip up the dessert for myself at midnight. Repeat almost every other night for two weeks. This was even if I had cooked it for restaurant guests at school. I remember feeling dull, tired, and lonely when I cooked the Bananas Foster for myself those nights. I tried to cheer myself into thinking I was becoming something of an expert in its preparation. But really, how high is the demand for that "skill"?
As the Golden Steer staff passed us our Bananas Foster, I bragged to Oscar, "I know how to make this. I can make it for you." Perhaps because he had been freely drinking all day, he answered in a sassy laugh, "But you won't." Oh, the challenge was on!
When I made it for us at home, he wanted to know the exact recipe, and even started looking around the kitchen for a cookbook. The man is a stickler for recipes and cooking process. He doesn't fully realize I've got the Bananas Foster thing down. Or that it's like riding a bike. Yes, it's a skill that returns easily even if it's been many years. I pointed to my mise-en-place of orange zest, 1 mildly spotted banana, brandy (no rum in the house. Time to explore), Ben & Jerry's vanilla ice cream, and brown sugar. I was hungry for the dessert and we both were excited to watch the bananas caramelize and cook.
Oscar was eying my outfit and scolded me, "You shouldn't be wearing baggy clothes on this one. What if you catch on fire?" Nope, I wasn't going to change. The cooking had already started, and my long sleeved purple cotton PJ's were comfy if not too sexy. I'll cop to one mistake on this joyful night: using too big of a skillet and getting overzealous with the brandy. When I touched the match to the skillet, a loud and fast WHOOSH of flames went out and over. I jerked my arm back quickly and turned my face away. Oscar claimed I "looked really scared" in those 2 seconds, but there's no way of confirming that.
We ate the sticky, gooey, creamy dessert in peace. There wasn't a lot of talking, but we were both definitely happy. Our plan is to make the dessert for family in San Diego, when we visit them next month. Share the Bananas Foster love. So much better than sitting in the dark, eating glumly, and talking to the TV, and a cat.