My Dad and Mom have officially hosted all the family reunions since 1995. There were many other impromptu reunions that just happened over the years, because people decided to come together at their house. Thanks Mom and Dad!
One of the first family reunions that we went to when The Farmer and I were first married, I volunteered to bring a dessert. The only cookbook I had at that time (or maybe one I had borrowed from Mom) was one that my Grandma Lorene’s church put together for a fundraiser, which is probably one of the best I’ve ever had.
Searching through the pages, I found the recipe for Banana Split Cake. Sounds great, right? I recognized all the ingredients, except one. The recipe called for one stick oleo. I know what you’re thinking, but at the time I was a young bride and didn’t have much experience in the kitchen, unless you count a frozen pizza or a TV dinner.
So I went to my local IGA searching for oleo. Much to my relief I found the oleo next to the sticks of butter (imagine that!). Taking my one pound of oleo home, I followed the recipe to the letter, measuring the ingredients meticulously, allowing the oleo to come to room temperature before mixing it with the other ingredients.
The last thing I had to put on top of the cake was the whipped topping. Remembering the way my Mother spread meringue or icing by making little peaks, I spread the whipped topping onto the cake. It turned out beautifully! Off to the reunion we went. Carefully packing away the little dessert that I was sure would WOW everyone! My first dessert, a Banana Split Cake—how impressive!
When dessert time came, I got out my beautiful Banana Split Cake, and just as I had anticipated, the ooos and wows started coming in. I cut a piece for The Farmer (before he was THE farmer), because I figured since it was my first dessert, he deserved to be the first to eat it. Then I cut pieces for my uncles and others.
But then a hush settled among the ooos and wows, and someone asked (I remember who it was, but they shall remain nameless here), “Did you put butter in this cake?”
“No”, I answered and started naming off the ingredients.
“There’s a lot of oleo in this”, chimed in others.
I remembered I only put in one stick, just like the recipe called for. And began to think that maybe there had been something wrong with the recipe. Someone must have typed it wrong.
“How much oleo did you put in?” asked one proficient cook.
“It called for 1 stick”, I answered defensively.
“It tastes more like 1 pound!” stated the cook.
At that time—the time when my whole family was turning against me, the family that I had been born into, that I had spent all my life with, extended family that I had shared my summers with, the people that I would have given my life for—I turned to look at The Farmer who was not only eating my dessert, but he was ENJOYING my dessert. It was at that moment that I knew I would always love him and support him. ;)
Although the memory of that first family reunion may have been idealized just a bit, the unadulterated truth is I did make a Banana Split Cake that called for 1 stick of oleo, but I ended up using 1 pound of oleo.
To redeem my reputation, I made the same Banana Split Cake at the next reunion; it was the special dessert that I had hoped for. I began making this dessert for every reunion we have, and every year it’s turned out perfectly, but every year I’ve been reminded of that first time when it tasted like butter. It’s just something I’m always going to be known for, but that’s okay.
Something else I’m known for is being late (unfortunately), so my Mother and I had decided long ago that I would never bring a salad or side (something that needs to be there when the meal is first served). But I would bring a dessert, then it wouldn’t matter how late I was. I began bringing most of the desserts for the family reunion, and now that my girls are women with their own husbands and households, they have been helping, too. This year we ended up taking 10 desserts.
Here are the desserts I took.
apple pie, cherry pie, cheese cake, coconut cream pie, lemon meringue pie
and of course a Banana Split Cake.
For several years, I have been making a double sized Banana Split Cake;
not as pretty, but I believe I have been completely exonerated. :)