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On Living In A Small Town

The trick to living in a small town, I’ve learned, is never to read the “events” section of the local paper.

If you do, you’ll be reminded that your options for exciting activities are. . . limited.  On any given weekend, you’ll get:

  1. a high school production of The Wizard of Oz;
  2. a pancake breakfast to benefit the rescue squad;
  3. some kind of sports game at a stadium that may or may not sell hot dogs; and
  4. a lawn care seminar at the public library.

And sometimes not even that.

You know how the salesperson at the grocery store often asks if you want to donate a dollar to charity? Well, you can donate a dollar at my local Belk this weekend.  I know because it’s listed as an EVENT.  The other EVENT is that you’re allowed to walk your dog in the Botanical Garden tomorrow as long as you pick up its poop.

At first the smallness of this town bothered me, but now I don’t mind.  It’s so much easier to spend time with people when there aren’t a million things competing for their attention.  Sure, we don’t have a restaurant here that makes a good banana cream pie, but I have the time to go to my friend’s house for dinner and make one with her.

banana pie collageAnd if you’ve ever had a good friend and a good banana cream pie, you can imagine what fun that is.

banana cream pie small

So when people ask if I miss Manhattan, I say–truthfully–not really.  I miss the friends I have there, and I miss watching strangers on my walks and subway rides, and sometimes I even miss my crazy law job.  But I don’t miss the strain that so much busyness–so many EVENTS EVENTS EVENTS!– put on my relationships, on my sleep patterns, on whatever it is I think of as my soul.banana collage 2 not in orderThis small town is teaching me that one-off events don’t matter to me as much as I thought they did.  Concerts and new restaurants and gallery openings are fun.  Very fun.  But they come and they go for me.  What’s starting to matter more is preserving time for doing even the smallest things with good people.

Put another way, this Walt Whitman quote is starting to make a whole lot of sense:

“We were together.  I forget the rest.”

knife and pie small

To your weekend, my friends!  May you spend it with good people, wherever you are.

Banana Cream Pie {Download & Print}
adapted from a recipe in Cakes And Bakes 500

I used to love the banana pudding at the famous Magnolia Bakery in the West Village of New York City.  No banana pudding I’ve made or tasted has come close to it.  So I was stunned when I tried this banana cream pie.  It’s better.  It’s even better!  You can substitute ginger cookies if you can’t get your hands on the Biscoff variety, but decrease the butter in the crust by one tablespoon.  (And do try for the Biscoff–they make such a tender crust.)  I made a full-fat version and a reduced fat version with 1/3 fat cream cheese and fat-free Greek yogurt, and both were delicious.  If you love cheese cakes, increase the cream cheese to 1 1/2 c. to increase the presence of its texture and flavor.  I haven’t tried to leave out the rum, but the original recipe makes it optional, so I don’t see why you couldn’t leave it out.

Ingredients:

2 1/4 c. finely crumbled Biscoff cookies (this is a little more than 1 sleeve Biscoff cookies)

6 Tbsp. butter, melted

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

4-5 medium ripe bananas, divided

1 1/4 c. cream cheese (this is a little more than 1 8-oz. package of cream cheese.  You can use 1/3 fat cream cheese if you want.)

1/4 c. plain Greek yogurt (you can use 0% fat Greek yogurt if you want.)

1/4 c. + 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar (plus more for sweetening the whipped cream)

3 Tbsp. rum (this is one airplane bottle)

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. whipping cream

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put Biscoff cookies in a food processor and process until you have 2 1/4 c. of really fine crumbs.   In a medium bowl, combine the crumbs with the melted butter and the cinnamon.  Stir until thoroughly mixed.  Pour the crumbs into a pie tin and press them in, building up thick sides with a neat edge.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool.

In an electric mixer, beat TWO of the bananas with the cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in the Greek yogurt, powdered sugar, rum and vanilla until smooth.  Increase the speed to medium-high to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed and there are no lumps.   Taste it.  Depending on how ripe your bananas are, you might want to add a little more powdered sugar–you don’t want the mixture to be at all bitter.  Pour the banana cream mixture into the cooled crust and even out the top.

Chill the pie in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight so that it sets.  An hour or less before serving time (but no sooner, or the banana slices might discolor), whip the cream with  a whisk or in an electric mixer until medium peaks form.  If you like, beat in a tablespoon or two of powdered sugar until it’s sweet enough for your liking.

You can either put slice the bananas and arrange them on top of the pie and then spread the whipped cream on top, or vice versa.  If you anticipate having left-overs, I’d put the banana on first and then the whipped cream, so that when you go to eat the left-overs the bananas (which will have browned a little but will still taste delicious) are concealed.  Serve!

~~~

thunderThunder surveys our new wood pile the way Cortez looked out across the Pacific!

32 Comments Post a comment
  1. I have never had a banana cream pie. It’s not a Thing here. It may have to become a Thing because this looks a) delicious and b) straightforward. And c) delicious. It is an Event in itself.

    Did Thunder or Seymour audition for The Wizard of Oz? I hope so.

    February 16, 2013
  2. MrsH #

    Oh my word, that sounds amazing! But honestly, you had me at bananas and cream cheese… I am a sucker for most things with cream cheese.

    I personally have never lived in a small town, but I admire your outlook about it. We are fortunate to have a pretty good balance, living close enough to downtown Seattle, but living out in the suburbs. So we can find “EVENTS!” if we are looking for them, but don’t get too drawn into the hustle and bustle. Although, I wouldn’t mind if our local library was doing a lawn care seminar; our yard could use the help.

    February 16, 2013
  3. These are so far my favorite of your food photos, what beautiful shadows! I’ve recently moved from the smallest town in New Hampshire to Los Angeles, and I miss the small town painfully much. It was an ‘event’ just going to the post office!

    February 16, 2013
  4. I LOVE the banana pudding at Magnolia Bakery, if this pie is better…I must make it, like, NOW.

    February 16, 2013
    • Oh yay! Isn’t it delicious? And I just love how if you walk past it on West 11th St., you get hit by the air vent that’s pumping out the most amazing bakery smells in the world. Better than fresh laundry, that smell.

      February 18, 2013
  5. Cindy #

    I’m sure the pie is wonderful and I’m sure I’ll check that out personally, but in the meantime — the photos are so lovely!!

    February 16, 2013
    • Thank you, Cindy! Some things (like chicken–oy) are so hard to photograph. Banana pie was such a nice surprise!

      February 18, 2013
  6. Fun photos.

    February 17, 2013
    • Thanks! It was hard taking them without eating the pie, but thankfully I had some whipped cream left over so I dipped into that while I worked!

      February 18, 2013
  7. Amy #

    Honestly, I’d take living in a small town over living in Manhattan any day. I hope that Nate can get some job where we can relocate anywhere. I’m glad you’ve made some friends there though…friends make anywhere seem like home. And your banana cream pie looks delicious!

    February 17, 2013
  8. Jenn #

    *sigh* I long for all the time in the world and my kitchen to myself so I could bake my life away. I love it so! I should just open a bakery and get it over with already. I have a Meyer Lemon Cream Pie on deck sometime in the next week.

    Also, I lurve Thunder’s underbite.

    February 17, 2013
  9. Biscooooooffff… Homer gurgle…

    February 17, 2013
  10. This is a wonderful post! I am not sure if I can live in a small town – like you I have been a city girl, born and bred and having lived all my life in the metropolis…..but I do know that life is worth so much more when you spend it with good people and you have friends. I am sure you would know that the stress of surviving in a metropolis is so much more bearable if you have friends! I really enjoy the thought of cooking with friends, except the control freak me, needs the kitchen to all by herself. ;)

    February 17, 2013
  11. looks fabulous!!!!!!! and Thunder … oh my! LOL

    February 17, 2013
  12. I love this post. That is all

    February 17, 2013
  13. Sandra R #

    I love rural places, and hope to retire in one. Actually, the local police report page is much more fun than the events page. And that will make you doubly glad to be out of Gotham! Really odd things, like someone finds a dog and calls the police. Or sees a strange car, parked on the road. Really scary stuff. Like Mayberry. Only sometimes I suppose with meth.

    February 18, 2013
  14. I have a confession: I hate the smell of bananas. I don’t mind their flavour, but the scent of banana? Not so much. But these photos and your freakin’ description of this pie make me want to shove that pie into my… pie hole, and also: wear banana scented perfume. That’s a big deal, lady.

    I used to live in Toronto, and Halifax is WAY smaller, and though I love Toronto right hard like, home is definitely where the heart is. Also, because I don’t really have a long-term or short-term memory, I basically live by the Walt Whitman’s words.

    February 18, 2013
  15. i love Thunder SO much.

    February 18, 2013
    • Oh Ruthie, I know. When she crawls up toward me in the morning and gets under the comforter so she can go back to sleep next to my chest, with her little face resting on my shoulder, I could weep from the cuteness.

      February 18, 2013
  16. mallory #

    Having lived in a number of cities (and traveling literally all over the world for work), and now living in a small town too…yep. You nailed it.

    And the thing I remind myself, when I start to really miss my old life, is this: it is awfully easy to moonlight in Big City Life. Just travel to a big city, and suddenly you are part of a cast of millions. But to enjoy Small Town Life, you have to nurture it with time and attention and humility…you have to be there, consistently getting your hands dirty. So lucky us: we get both. We get to have the city whenever we make the time for it, and in the meantime we have the small town.

    And also, I’m making that pie just as soon as I can make it to the store for the bananas and heavy cream!

    February 18, 2013
  17. Fiona #

    Have you ever seen Corner Gas? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9O2vZfxpcc
    Small town… woodpiles… it’s Canadian, but I think it might speak to you…

    February 18, 2013
  18. I loved this post. You nailed living in a small town (as many previous comment-ers have said), but you also gave me a new favorite WW poem. Having grown up in a small town, and currently living in Brooklyn, I am dying to get back. I never really wanted to leave, my profession just forced me to straight out of college (accounting- blah). While I wouldn’t give back my past 7ish years of living around Manhattan, the BX and BK, I am really READY to find that slower paced life again. Just need to talk my husband into it (born and raised in BK). I’m definitely sending him this blog post to read – you are much more eloquent than me. Wish me luck!

    Maybe I can bribe him with the pie.

    February 19, 2013
  19. I love the sweet sentiment of this post. Whether in a small town or not, I think something is to be said for slowing down like a little bit and focusing on what’s really important. Like banana cream pie…

    February 19, 2013
  20. prosewithabbitude #

    Interesting. I spent my childhood in a small town, and since 14 years of age been in the city. I can’t imagine ever going back. I lived in Manhattan for 10 1/2 years, and just outside of DC for the past 6 years. I consider DC sometimes boring. If I had the opportunity to go back to NYC I would do it in a hearbeat.

    February 20, 2013
  21. I have lived in many places around the world. Big cities, small oilfield towns and locations in between. The height of elegance that is Paris and the armpit of the world (my father’s words) that was Balikpapan, Indonesia. But what I find is that the people around me make the place. The so-called armpit became one of our favorite homes. I am glad you have found the same thing. I love that Walt Whitman quote – being together is all that matters.

    P.S. Banana cream pie is a big deal at our house, no matter where we live. Yours looks delicious!

    February 20, 2013
  22. Being a huge city dweller for the most of my life, boy this sounds like a dream. Will try the pie recipe too. Love your posts :)

    February 23, 2013
  23. I made this tonight for my family, everyone devoured it. Two notes: Trader Joe’s has the same exact cookies for less, though there’s an ounce less of them. They worked perfectly (though like all TJ’s stuff, don’t go falling in love since there’s a good chance they will stop carrying it sooner or later). Also, I forgot the rum so I put it in the whipped cream. It was delicious.

    February 23, 2013
    • Horray! Penny, this makes me so happy. Thanks for letting me know.

      Oh how I *wish* we had a Trader Joe’s here. The closest one to me is in Nashville, but I’m glad to know about the cheaper cookies because there’s one in my mom’s town and she made the pie the other day, so I’ll let her know.

      February 26, 2013
  24. Erinn @ www.more-sprinkles.com #

    This looks like it tastes amazing!

    February 25, 2013
  25. this looks like it might be a close contender with my friend in Scotland’s banoffee pie!

    February 25, 2013
    • I consider it a terrible failing of mine that I have never had banoffee pie. It must be amazing!

      Lately I’ve been craving Tiramisu. I’ve never made it but it might be next on my list…

      February 26, 2013
      • Tiramisu is good too – I went through a phase of making it regularly, I haven’t made it in ages… mmmm – maybe I should get cooking!

        February 27, 2013

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