I love living in the South. There are so many thing Southern that are comforting to me. Southern foods top the list, and at the top of that list is pimiento cheese. Recently, I met a woman who just moved here from Colorado. “What’s in pimiento cheese?” she asked. Duh — pimientos and cheese!! Well, of course there’s some mayo to hold it together, but it’s basically pimientos and cheese.
In recent years, pimiento cheese has become more creative. Chipotle, jalapeños, pecans and even dried fruit are added to make it special. I like those newer versions but I’m still a fan of the simple original. It’s cheap food, relatively speaking, and it goes well by itself on two slices of bread. It’s easy to bring for lunch. Just add some veggies on the side for a great meal.
I didn’t realize pimiento cheese was a Southern Food until I moved away. You just don’t see it up north. Of course, I never did find much good comfort food up north except Chicago pizza and cannolis from the North End in Boston. And, I remember the evening I brought a bucket of fried chicken to a sunset picnic on the shore of Lake Michigan with my ex and his son, Ryan. They laughed at the fact that fried chicken would be considered picnic food. What?? Every time we drove more than 30 minutes down the road, my Mawmaw fried a chicken. Those yanks just don’t get southern food. I definitely don’t think they would have appreciated pimiento cheese.
I eat my pimiento cheese on whole grains now. I was raised on white bread and pimiento cheese, but I just don’t stock it anymore. My favorite pimiento cheese in Memphis is from Whole Foods. It’s light on mayo and heavy on great cheese. I cringe every time I pay $5.00 for it, but I love it. Lucchesi’s has a good specialty one. I’m not sure what it has in it, but I try to get it every now and then when I’m out that way.
Lots of restaurants add pimiento cheese to burgers. I mean, it’s cheese and mayo, that’s sort of a no-brainer to add to a burger. At home, I’ll make a pimiento cheese grilled cheese sandwich. I love it with a bowl of tomato soup. It’s easy to make pimiento cheese at home, but I’ve just never gotten the right mix down, so I just buy it from somewhere I like. One of these days, I’ll get it right.
I think the thing I really like the most about pimiento cheese has been its history in my life and it’s place in my best memories. It wouldn’t be a Southern wedding if there were no pimiento cheese sandwiches. Somebody always makes pimiento cheese sandwiches for the meal following funerals. And, one of my favorite memories of my first mother in law was sitting down with her to eat her homemade pimento cheese sandwiches at her kitchen table in Clinton LA. It was a daily event when we visited.
So, what’s in pimiento cheese? I may have answered my friend too abruptly. It’s a mixture of tradition, memories and Southern flair with a touch of cheese and pimientos. I think I’ll go make a sandwich. All of a sudden I have a hankering for pimiento cheese.