Where can they do up Sunday dinner better than in the South?

From Virginia ham to cheese grits and collard greens, Southern cooks have been known for generations for their hearty, homestyle fare and gracious hospitality.

Much of that spirit is captured in Southern Living's "Around the Southern Table" by Rebecca Lang ($29.95, hardcover, Oxmoor House).

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In the "eat dessert first" category, file Lang's recipe for Real Banana Pudding. Forget about any boxes containing a powdered mix. This is the real deal, cooked pudding with a meringue on top.

While it's from scratch, it doesn't require a lot of fancy ingredients and comes together in about half an hour.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Real Banana Pudding

Ingredients

•1/2 cup sugar

•2 tablespoons cornstarch

•1/4 teaspoon salt

•2 1/4 cups milk

•4 large eggs, separated

•2 tablespoons unsalted butter

•1teaspoon vanilla extract

•3 1/3 cups vanilla wafers

•4 ripe bananas, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices

•3 tablespoons sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and salt in a small bowl. Whisk together sugar mixture, milk and 4 egg yolks in a medium-size heavy saucepan until well-blended.

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 6 to 8 minutes, or until thickened.

Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla.

Layer half of vanilla wafers in an

8-inch square baking dish. Top with half of banana slices and half of pudding. Repeat procedure with remaining wafers, banana slices and pudding.

Beat egg whites at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy. Gradually add 3 tablespoons sugar, beating until sugar dissolves and stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over pudding, sealing to edge of dish.

Bake at 375 degrees for 7 to 10 minutes or until golden. Let cool 30 minutes, and serve warm; or chill an additional hour and serve cold.

Servings: 8 to 10

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