We have been spending a lot of time lately with our Los Angeles grandchildren. In particular, Susan has been assisting in school-related transportation. All of that is different from when I was growing up. First, few if any kids walk to school, and at least in Southern California there are no orange school buses. Parents line up for blocks in their cars before the schools open in the morning, waiting to drop off their child in a congested delivery area and then creating a neighborhood traffic jam on their way out. The process is repeated – some of it in reverse – at the end of the school day. Second, hours are completely different school to school so that the bell may ring at 7:30 in the high school but not until 8:30 in the middle school. This makes it easier for parents with kids in more than one school, but it also keeps one on the road for hours. Then, I guess just to keep you on your toes, Tuesday hours are likely to be different from Monday hours – but not every week. We now have a detailed schedule plastered on the kitchen wall, just the same as the one at my daughter’s house. With a schedule like that, you are bound to need a little refreshment in the afternoon, and my wife and grandson are kindred spirits.
They often make a stop at the local outlet of Handel’s Ice Cream. By now they have the routine completely worked out: walk up to the window, study the menu of at least 30 or 40 flavors of ice cream, place your order, and when it is dished up, sit at a garden table in front and eat up. There are more elaborate treats, including milk shakes and sundaes. The most treasured item is the banana split, and when there is need for a special celebration (or maybe not so special) it calls for a banana split.
Handel’s version of the banana split is fairly traditional except that it comes in a plastic disposable dish. One day I was reminiscing about my childhood and ice cream parlors with Naugahyde-covered stools and glass bowls designed especially to hold a banana split. My grandson found that an interesting story (an unusual reaction of one of my grandchildren to one of my stories) and wanted to find one of those glass dishes.
Thus, began my quest. None of the local stores had the bowls in stock, and the owner of the kitchen store allowed as how they probably weren’t made anymore. All I had to do was look on Amazon to find a carton of six bowls made by Libbey Glass priced at about $4 apiece. I ordered them, and they arrived moderately safely with only one broken. They looked like the ones that I remember from my childhood, long with curved-up ends and just big enough to hold a split banana and three scoops of ice cream. Finding ice cream was easy, and I settled on the classics: vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.
Sauces took more effort. I am still getting used to the local grocery store, and I couldn’t find sauces, so I decided to make my own. The pineapple was easy, although not as satisfying as the real thing. For the chocolate sauce, I made a cream-predominant ganache, and for the butterscotch, I used an internet recipe from The Perfect Cake (Susan G. Purdy) by way of the Washington Post and the famous blog, Smitten Kitchen.
Since it was my week for dessert at the Sunday family dinner, I made banana splits. They turned out to be a big, big hit with my grandson. Not surprisingly, they turned out to be a big hit with everyone else.
Chocolate Ganache Sauce
- 8 ounces (by weight) heavy cream
- 4 ounces (by weight) chocolate chips, chopped (best quality you can find)
- Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan and immediately remove from the heat.
- Sprinkle the chopped chocolate chips into the warm milk, shaking the pan gently to make sure the chocolate is in contact with the cream.
- Let stand, undisturbed, for 5 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt.
- Stir until the mixture is smooth and completely combined. Transfer to a container and cool.
- Since the sauce contains cream, you should refrigerate if you do not use it immediately. That will make the sauce too thick to pour. You can rewarm it very gently with a 5 to 10 second pulse in the microwave.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ cup dark brown sugar (packed)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat
- Add the sugar, cream, and salt, whisking to combine completely.
- Bring to a low boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and cool. Refrigerate if not using immediately.