My mom is a pack rat. Not the pathological kind, where you open a cabinet and 500 empty bottles of Mrs. Dash come tumbling out… but she keeps things around longer than I’d like. Spices, little-used baking ingredients, ancient cookie decorations. They’re good for a rousing game of “Hey, guess how much this stuff cost in the 1970s!!”
My mom tried, she really tried, to throw away her old cooking magazines, but it proved a difficult task. To ease the blow, she “handed them down” to me. I had gigantic stacks of 30-year-old Gourmet and Bon Appetit magazines lying around for months, and finally started making my way through them all. Scattered in among them I found a few issues of “Cuisine,” a magazine that seems to have gone extinct, but I thumbed through it anyway. My mom always put a little sticker on the front with a list of recipes she wanted to try, and this one had a note about a plum pie.
Have you looked at recipes for baked goods from the 70s? Plum pie sounds pretty good, but this one was all gelatin and cornstarch and food coloring. I’m not even sure it included real plums. On the next page, I found a recipe for pigs’ knuckles and red beans. There is a photo of the long-simmered knuckles (about 3 pounds of them), and let’s just say they were wise to shoot these in a shadowy corner of the large buffet table. It’s unclear how they are to be eaten, though it seems gnawing would work best.
But flipping through these magazines reminded me of a dessert my mom used to make all the time with Nabisco’s Famous chocolate wafers. The chocolate ice box cake. Now that was a darn good recipe from the ’70s.
This is just to say…. while pondering this week’s banana cream pie recipe, I felt like going retro. Boomeranging between the troubling Cuisine magazine recipes and the beloved Famous wafer cake, I hit upon it. It had to have a Nilla wafer crust.
Nilla Wafer Crumb Crust
35-40 Nilla Wafers, finely crushed (about 1-1/4 cups)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine, melted
2 Tbsp. sugar
Mix all ingredients until well blended. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and up side of 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes.
This made a lovely banana cream pie. Dorie added some brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to the pastry cream, and a bit of sour cream to the topping. These touches are an obvious move to update the classic pie. So mine was a chronological culture clash, updated and retro at the same time. (I really wanted to drizzle a bit of caramel on the top — my favorite way to serve banana cream pie — but I ran out of time.)
It makes me wonder how our recipes will look to bakers 40 years from now. What techniques and ingredients do we use now that will make cooks wrinkle their noses or scratch their heads in wonder?