Today, I was branded a bad Southerner by the New York Times' Florence Fabricant via an article about homemade pimento cheese hitting the aisles of Murray's Cheese: "In some parts of the country, pride is taken in homemade pimento cheese; self-respecting Southerners would never buy the commercial kind to fill a sandwich or to top a canapé. "
Oh, dear. We wouldn't? In my house, we boiled our peanuts, baconed our collard greens and fried our green tomatoes. But never did we make homemade pimento cheese. And thus I've been branded a bad Southerner?
For those of you not in the know (you'd apparently make very bad Southerners), pimento cheese is a concoction of cheddar cheese (and other types of cheese if necessary), mayo, cream cheese and pimentos. And in the South, it's available in your grocer's aisle right by the deli meats. As a child, my mom liked to pack up my lunches full of creative sandwiches on whole wheat bread no less. But children never appreciate best intentions. What did I want? Bologna on white bread with mayo or pimento cheese on white bread. These were reserved for special occasions -- code: when my mom ran out of nutritious lunches and was in a hurry.
I was 24 when I discovered pimento cheese came in other forms than a plastic container. (Please don't tell the Times.) I worked in the lifestyle department of a suburban Atlantan newspaper and was writing an article on tailgating foods. I was interviewing a die-hard UGA football fan, who told me about her famous pimento cheese recipe. "You can make pimento cheese?" slipped out of my mouth before I knew it. There was a pause. I had offended her delicate Southern roots. "Why, yes," she said, cautiously, "You've never had it homemade?"
You think I would have learned my lesson. But it actually took this picture of a pimento burger the other week to bring back my pimento cheese memories. So who do I turn to in my time of need but Ms. Paula Deen, whipping up some homemade pimento cheese this weekend. (Take that, Times.) Ryan's friend, Bryan, hosted a cookout (or "bbq," as I've found Northerners refer to them, despite there not being any bbq present). Ryan and I -- and a few other brave souls -- slathered our burger with the pimento cheese while they were still on the grill, to melt the cheese just a bit. Then we placed them on their buns and dug in. It was really, really good. Like better-than-a-cheeseburger good. So good we had wolfed them down before I remembered to snap a picture. (Oh, I'm a bad blogger and a bad Southerner!)
Since this weekend I've put my pimento cheese on anything I could think of -- smeared on celery sticks, tossed into scrambled eggs, placed atop a hot dog and wedged between two pieces of cornbread. I'm a (homemade!) pimento cheese lovin' fool. Whether you've experienced homemade pimento cheese or not, it's worth a shot to try during a cookout for a pimento cheese burger.
Bobby's Pimento Cheese by Paula Deen
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 cup grated Monterey Jack
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 to 3 tablespoons pimentos, smashed
1 teaspoon grated onion
Cracked black pepper, salt and garlic powder to taste
Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy. Add all of the remaining ingredients and beat until well blended. It can be used as a dip for crudite or as a sandwich filling.