Say Cheese!

Growing up in the south, pimento cheese was a refrigerator staple. Most of the time we ate it between two pieces of white bread. Being a versatile food, it was great on celery and my favorite was as a substitute in a grilled cheese sandwich. After entering adulthood, pimento cheese drifted out of my regular diet. Every two or three years I would get a craving and purchase a carton of Mrs. Weaver’s pimento cheese at the store.

A recent yearning found me searching for my beloved Mrs. Weaver’s at the supermarket. Looking next to the ham salad (where, of course, it is supposed to be), it wasn’t there. Undaunted, I continued to the cheese section and then on to the deli. It was unbelievable to me that any store labeling itself a supermarket would not have ready-made pimento cheese. I finally asked a clerk “Where do you keep your pimento cheese?” The unthinkable came out of her lips, “What is that?” She then continued, “I think we have pimento loaf in the deli, if that is what you are referring to.” I found myself nearly in need of smelling salts. How could anyone confuse lunch meat with my gooey rich cheesy delight? The sad truth was uncovered. In the Pacific Northwest, pimento cheese is unheard of.

When I mentioned my discovery to a friend who has roots in Texas, she made some wonderful pimento cheese for me. It set off my craving even more. I decided I would have to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps and make my own pimento cheese. A Google search found a decent recipe and a few tweaks of my own made it perfect.

Two Sundays ago, at a bridge club game, I brought a bowl of home-made pimento cheese and served it with crackers. A little sign was made so those new to this culinary treat would know what that heavenly spread was called. I put the bowl, tray of crackers and sign on the treat table and walked away. Across the room, I heard a shriek, “OH MY GAWWWWDDD, YOU CAN’T GET THIS STUFF IN THIS PART OF THE COUNTRY.” Being a Kentucky transplant, the enthusiastic shrieker was delighted to have a taste of the South. It warmed my heart to watch her hover over the bowl like a hummingbird guarding his feeder during a drought. It didn’t take long for the bowl to empty. Another bridge player, who was newly introduced to the spread, said if she were home, she would be licking the bowl.

At the next Friday night game, I brought a sun-dried tomato dip and put it on the table. As a fellow bridge player was eating it off the cracker, she said, “Is this pimento cheese? Everyone at Sunday’s game was talking about it. It was gone before I got a taste.” Mixed emotions ran through me. I was delighted that the pimento cheese was a hit, but sad that anyone could confuse sun-dried tomato dip for pimento cheese.

The next Friday night, the cheese spread was again introduced to the snack table. It was a hit. On Saturday night, I took some to a party. The hostess was from Louisiana and had similar experiences as me in her search for the delectable treat. We both agreed that making our own is so much better than any store purchased product. It quickly flew off the snack table.

It has been delightful to see the joy in my friends’ faces as they savor a new food that I introduced them to.

Today is a good day.

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2 Responses to Say Cheese!

  1. Melissa says:

    That is so funny. Reminds me of my brother trying to get some gravy for his biscuit in New York City. They look at you like you’re not speaking English. You sure can’t entertain the thought of chocolate gravy. I might make some of that for Christmas and bowl-licking will definitely ensue. Back to the pimento cheese though…pimentos are weird. I admit that. Can you do anything else with it besides bury it in cheese or ham? I can’t recall one other use.

    • dcl says:

      You forget the most important use of pimentos – stuffed in green olives. A pimento is a variety of sweet red bell pepper. I’ve never seen pimentos sold in the produce aisle using the name “pimento,” rather they are called “sweet red bell peppers.”

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