A Sweet Thanksgiving Pt.2

The second of our Sweet Thanksgiving desserts, Banana Cream Pudding, holds a very special place in my heart for two reasons. Going way back to my childhood, a stripped down version of Banana Cream Pudding, sliced banana smothered in packet custard. A virtually instant and gratifying finish to a homely meal. I feel particularly fond of Banana Custard because it is my grandfather’s favourite pudding; in fact anything with bananas is his favourite. My grandad was the one who first showed me how to slice a banana before peeling it, and afterwards he would have to feign mock surprise as I demonstrated my new trick to him.
The second reason I am so fond of Banana Cream Pudding is that the true ingredients of the dish, Vanilla Pudding and Nila Wafers remind me of my first road trip to the US with my then-to-be husband, Paul. We put on pounds travelling around US, eating Nilla Wafers from the box and scooping out various flavours of Pudding with our our already Cheetoe-orange strained fingers. I later returned to the UK with boxes of powdered pudding in all sorts of lurid flavours and broken Nilla Wafers that hadn’t entirely survived the manhandling of the luggage handlers.
I hadn’t eaten banana custard OR Nilla wafers OR pudding for some time and Paul had requested that his Mom send us a box of the wafers over in a large care box containing several now-well thumbed issues of Gourmet Magazine. Suffice to say, the request for Banana Cream Pudding was soon demanded but I was given one proviso: I cannot use custard, I have to find a recipe for Vanilla Pudding. Just between me and the UK readers, custard is a fairly good representation of Pudding, particularly if you make it really quite thick, or use a cartoned brand (they keep forever – literally – in the pantry).
However, in this instance, I conceded and found a recipe on the Nabisco (home of the Nilla Wafer) website. Pudding is easy to make, flour, sugar, milk, egg yolks whisked up in a double boiler until the lumpy gloop turns smooth and thickens. It is then liberally, generously blanketed over sliced bananas and Nilla Wafers (there is no UK substitute for these – and, even though I am a biscuit connoisseur, I cannot think of a similar alternative. Some of those fancy Breton-style Butter rich shortcake biscuits would be just as yummy though), covered with Meringue and flashed briefly in a hot oven to brown. I thought that a sweet meringue topping would be too much sugar so replaced this with another childhood favourite, Dream Topping.
Dream Topping is our nearest equivalent to America’s Cool Whip, an amazing demonstration of what a evil genius with a craving for whipped cream but no refrigerator and open access to a cupboard full of chemicals, can produce. Both Dream Topping (a powder that you whisk up with milk) and Cool Whip are airy creams, with no hint of dairy flavour and a slightly sweet demeanour. I find both of them completely alluring and perfect for this already calorie laden pudding.
You can, of course, use regular whipped cream or go for the meringue option.
For a real retro treat, here’s how to whip up Banana Cream Pudding:
Banana+Pud+002 - A Sweet Thanksgiving Pt.2BANANA CREAM PUDDING
serves at least 6-8
Ingredients:
5 Bananas, peeled and sliced, sprinkled with a little 7-up or lemon juice to stop them browning
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Plain Flour
Pinch Salt
3 Egg Yolks (reserve the whites for meringue topping, if making)
2 Cups Milk
½ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Box Nilla Wafers (or similar buttery-style biscuit)
Whipped Cream or a Sachet of Dream Topping or Cool Whip (if not making the meringue)
METHOD:
In the top half of a double boiler, whisk together the flour, sugar and pinch of salt. Then whisk in the milk and egg yolks. Place over the bottom half of the double boiler (which will need to be quarter filled with water and brought to a brisk simmer).
Whisk mixture for 10-12 minutes, or until thickens.
Pour a little of the mixture into a heatproof serving dish, layer with the Nilla Wafers or biscuits, then a layer of sliced bananas.
Repeat this layering twice more, ending with the Pudding.
If you are going for the cream topping, slather all over the top and decorate with some more Nilla Wafers and slices of banana.
If you want to make the meringue topping, whisk the egg whites until stiff, pour in a quarter of a cup of sugar and whisk until stiff and glossy. Spoon over the pudding, taking care to cover over all the edges and bake in a pre-heated oven (175c) until browned, about 15-20 minutes.
Spoon into large bowls and straight into mouth.
Enjoy!
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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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