Staff Writer Nicki Camberg shares her thoughts on what she believes is the height of culinary experience.
The first time I walked through the pearly colored doors of Magnolia Bakery at Rockefeller Center, I was struck not by the banana pudding but by the chocolaty treats. The cashier checked me out for my cupcakes, which I have wanted to try since seeing this SNL skit. She mentioned to me that next time I should try their banana pudding, which they are famous for.
I scoffed. Scoffed! Banana pudding? That sounds disgusting. Banana is without a doubt the worst flavor of candy, I would rather eat my own foot than a yellow Laffy Taffy. I left, munching on my delicious cupcakes, and thought nothing more of what I would assume to be a monkey’s favorite goop.
Then, a week later, during a visit with a long lost cousin in Greenwich, which is a story for another time, she took me to Magnolia on 11th Street. I got a brownie, and she got banana pudding. I was perplexed and bemused! Why would anyone want such a weird item, this yellow slime over a delectable pastry? Yet, I was peer pressured into tasting it, and that is when this phase of my life began.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. Magnolia’s concoction is a transcendent taste bud experience, defying traditional definitions of flavor and texture. The pudding itself tastes like a cake batter of sorts, but without the inherent eggy salmonella aftertaste. The slices of banana are fresh and refreshing, a texture juxtaposition that validates me eating a whole tub since a banana, is in fact, a fruit, and therefore makes the pudding healthy. The pieces of what I assume to be cake or wafers of some sort are delicious, a spongy piece of joy, akin to the classic children’s TV character Spongebob Squarepants.
There have been points in my life that I use as reference points: before and after each era of school, my Bat Mitzvah, getting into college, etc, but my first time trying Magnolia’s banana pudding has had more of a consequential effect on my life than any of those. I am a changed woman. There is no longer space in my brain to think of anything but said pudding, every food is a disappointment since it obviously can’t come close to the liminal experience of leaving Magnolia’s with a 16-ounce tub of liquid (solid? not sure what state of matter a pudding would be considered) heaven. Check my texts and it’s just a spree of “hey do you want to go to Magnolia’s” to everyone in my contact list, including those who don’t even live in this country. I got Magnolia pudding for dessert for a dinner my friend was hosting, and I wasn’t even sad when it was canceled, since it meant I wouldn’t need to share it with anyone.
This is a classic case of a name giving a false impression of the value of a thing. Examples of this phenomenon include the Hamilton elevator (that thing is not a functioning elevator and I stand by that), digestive biscuits (sound disgusting but are wonderful), and Bwog itself (weird name, excellent publication). I beg of you: please try this banana pudding and you too will experience true bliss and nirvana. There is one on 69th (lol) Street! Right off 72nd Street subway exit! Go now!
Image of God’s Chosen Elixir via Magnolia Bakery