Monday, July 24, 2006

Wisdom...or Lack Thereof

When speaking of his wisdom teeth, my grandfather used to say, “I’ll never get my wisdom teeth cut out, I do some of my best chewing with those teeth.”

Once again, I should have listened to my grandfather.After 44 years and some extremely successful chewing, I have removed all four of my wisdom teeth.Day after day, I kept waiting for the wisdom to kick in, to no avail.

After returning from the dentist’s office, heavily medicated and without a care in the world, I fell into the bed. My wife did as the doctor instructed and placed two ice packs on my cheeks to help prevent swelling. The bags wouldn’t stay in place and so she looked for anything to help secure the ice packs. This is where the trouble began.

Feeling all powerful and a little mischievous, my loving wife of 13 years dug deep into her closet to find the ugliest, most flower-filled scarf in her drawers. She returned with a gaudy blue, orange, and yellow number with assorted spring flowers which she proceeded to tie around my face, securing the ice packs, and leaving a large floral bow on the top of my head.

My head— full of some heavy-duty medication at the time— had no clue, or care, as to what was occurring.Moments later I was awakened by a series of bright flashes. I opened my eyes to find my wonderful spouse— the love of my life, my supreme caretaker at that moment— laughing, camera in hand, taking incriminating photos of her chipmunk-cheeked, floral-scarf clad, big-bow adorned patient. I am sure the photos will resurface at a later date. Still very much out of it, I mumbled a few choice words, gave her a gesture or two, and rolled over.

She whispered, “I’m going to the drug store to get your prescription filled. The phone is right here if you need me.”

Approximately five minutes later the doorbell began ringing, and ringing , and ringing. I tried to ignore it, but it continued to ring. Finally, I slid out of bed, wearing only a pair of shorts and the aforementioned bow-tied floral scarf. I shuffled through the house and opened the door.

Standing across from me were four of the most shocked housekeepers you have ever seen. To my recollection they were speechless. I looked at them. They looked back at me. I looked at them a little longer, they stood, jaws dropped, looking back at me. Finally, still only an hour out of surgery, I mumbled, “I got my wisdom teeth out.” Which, with my mouth full of gauze, probably sounded like, “I duh muh wunnuah teee how.”

Note: I am never home during the day on Fridays when the housekeepers show up. They don’t know me and I have never met them. We know each other intimately now.

I shuffled back to the bedroom, crawled back into the bed, and dreamed of banana pudding.

When my wife returned from the drug store I was sprawled out, flat on my back, in the middle of my bed, knocked out cold and without a care in the world as the housekeepers were busy vacuuming and dusting around me.

Like my grandfather, I, too, used to do some of my best chewing with those teeth. I’ll think of them often (mostly when I’m eating steak) and wonder why they never imparted any wisdom.Alas, I’ve always got banana pudding.

Joan Holland's Almost Heaven Banana Pudding

1 cup Sugar
6 Tbl Flour
Pinch of Salt
4 Egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
2 cups Milk
2 tsp Vanilla
6 Tbl Butter
Vanilla wafers
4 Bananas, ripe, peeled and sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine sugar, flour, salt, eggs, milk and vanilla in a small nonreactive sauce pot. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the custard thickens. Remove from heat, stir in butter until dissolved.

Butter a 2-quart baking dish. Arrange the vanilla wafers around the outside and across the bottom of the baking dish. Spread a layer of custard over the wafers. Place sliced bananas on top of custard and spoon the remaining custard over bananas, spreading evenly.


4 Egg whites
6 Tbl Sugar
1/2 tsp Cream of tartar

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer. When they start to increase in volume, add the sugar and cream of tartar. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. Spread over the pudding and bake at 350 degrees until golden, about 8 - 10 minutes. Allow pudding to cool completely before serving (refrigerate at least 4 hours).

Yield: 8-10 servings

Robert St.John is an author, chef, restaurateur, and world-class eater. He is the author of “A Southern Palate,” “Deep South Staples,” “Nobody’s Poet,” “My South,” and the upcoming “Deep South Parties.” He can be reached at or

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