In LA, grayness very very rarely equals rain, as it does in some places. I went to college in New Orleans, and the summer after my freshman year I worked in a tiny theater box office on the Tulane University campus. Tulane is a very gothic campus, all gray stone and twisting trees, heavy with branches that make one improbable hairpin turn after another. Much of the city sits under a canopy of jungle green trees, but Tulane is an especially leafy wonderland.
There was one window in the box office, and every day between 1 and 3pm, the skies would open, and a near-Biblical unleashing would occur. Not rain, more like a 30 minute miles-wide waterfall. The window became a porthole, and it got so dark that the automatic lamps on campus would come on. It rained so hard it flooded, every day. The race was on to make sure you got lunch, and were back in the boat (office) before the rains came. And the world would stop, rain would fall, the phones would quiet, the waters would rise in the streets, and I would eat lunch blinking out my porthole into the pre-historicly dark and stormy world outside. It was my favorite time of day, in the favorite days of my favorite summer. But how destructive all that water turned out to be.
So even now, if there’s a passing suggestion of rain, I feel the clock ticking to get food, and get back to the boat before the rains come. And not just any food. Comfort food. Something really creamy, or really salty, or really crunchy, or gooey, or sweet. Really something. Something that makes you feel ok with the fact that so much is washing away. You’re not washing away. You’re just eating lunch.
And so today, in what passes for gloom in Los Angeles, I tracked down a luxury provision. I had seen this truck once before. It passed me on the 101. Had I been the passenger and not the driver, I would have attempted a mid-freeway refueling, taking what could be thrown from the window, and been all the happier for it. But thank god it didn’t go down like that. Airborne, high speed chicken wings and banana pudding are the LAST thing the 101 needs, believe me.
Ah, the spoon. So often wasted on thin soups and frost-bitten ice cream straight from the container, while one stands lazily in the mist of the open freezer, because it’s only going to be one bite, maybe two. Hypothetical, obviously.
This pudding is the best thing to happen to spoons since chili. First of all, it gets a chance to stand up straight. It’s that thick. It’s not goopy, gloppy, or gooey. It’s SERIOUSLY thick. One opens the container to find that hallmark of all great banana puddings: the Nilla wafer. The product of a witty abbreviation of the word “vanilla,” this tasty edible button-not quite shortbread, not quite sugar cookie, is the town crier in this scenario. “Hear ye, Hear Ye! You are about to eat pudding!.” And it’s usually right.
I have never eaten Nilla wafers straight from the box. In fact, I have never eaten Nilla wafers in ANY OTHER capacity at all. And yet, they are so right with banana pudding. I should mention that when ordering from the Nana Queens truck, it is pronounced “puddin’.” And it starts the whole affair off with a lovely informality that sets the stage for the comfort food experience to come.
Because it was a rainy day in my head, I chose to take my puddin’ to the car, and eat it in the safety of the boat. This cream-cheesy, vanilla scented, spoon-challenging dessert hovers over a shelf of crusty goodness that incenses one to get that spoon all the way to the bottom, which I happily did of course. And the spoon full of rainy-day banana comfort? It fulfilled every possible requirement. It was really cold, really creamy, really thick, really banana-y. It was really something.
Though it never actually rained that day, I would have been just fine if it had. Sometimes a rainy day is a feeling and a taste, instead of a forecast. As long as you have a spoon.