‘P’menter Cheese

I never ate pimento cheese when I was growing up. Oh sure, my mom probably brought home a tub of that hideous Mrs. Kinser’s stuff from the A&P a time or two, but I wouldn’t have touched it with a ten-foot pole. But sometime in the past ten years or so, I began to have a weird craving for pimento cheese. Somewhere, somebody served me a box lunch with a pimento cheese sandwich wrapped up in waxed paper. (What is it about wax paper that makes even the most mundane food seem so delicously retro?) I was hooked. It seemed so quintessentially southern. I tasted several different kinds, and searched for a recipe that would deliver the goods. I finally found one that clicked in a cookbook by James Villas, the former food editor at Town and Country Magazine. Called “MY MOTHER’S SOUTHERN KITCHEN: Reminiscences and Recipes, the book, in which he trades comments and recipes with his mama, the formidable Martha Pearl, is a true gem, although I gather it’s now out of print. He’s written a couple new cookbooks since then, so you could buy one of his new ones, or just buy a used copy. I bought a copy for my mom, and she loved it too. James’ recipe, or maybe it was his mama’s, was simplicity itself. I don’t have the book in front of me, but it basically just called for grated sharp Cheddar cheese, homemade mayonnaise, a jar of drained pimentos, lemon juice, Worchestershire sauce, hot sauce and fresh ground pepper. Usually, store-bought pimento cheese is vile. I know of two exceptions. One is the Harris Teeter pimento cheese I used to buy when we lived in Raleigh. The other is the pimento cheese made at the Tybee Market IGA. Excellent stuff! I always use Duke’s mayonnaise when I make my ‘menter cheese, and Texas Pete hot sauce. My late friend Nancy Roquemore, (Miss Nancy) who was the mainstay of the Atlanta Journal-Consitution’s food section for many years, was a huge pimento cheese aficionado. I took her some on one of my last visits to see her before she died of cancer a couple years ago. My 87-year-old friend Martha, who used to look after my family when the kids were young and I was off on a book tour, adores my ‘menter cheese. I’d fix a bowl of it, slice some fresh tomatoes, and make us sandwiches on Wonder Bread. On the side, we like devilled eggs and potato chips. And to drink, iced tea, or Cokes–Martha likes hers with crushed ice. P.S. I always make my iced tea with Luzianne teabags. Lawd! Martha is living in an apartment in assisted living these days, and she recently demanded, er, requested, some of my ‘menter cheese. So tonight I made her a big tub of the stuff. Tomorrow I’ll devil some eggs and pick up a loaf of Wonder Bread. And we’ll have us a high old time.

6 thoughts on “‘P’menter Cheese”

  1. Just in case you’re worried the fat content is kind of low, you can throw in a big old spoon full of sour cream to the rest of the ingredients. Yum!

  2. You just dated yourself as there have been no A & P Stores for sometime now. That is where we used to shop when I was growing up.
    Also I have not heard of pimento cheese since we used to get it from government in commodities. I always hated it. I'm 59.
    Have a great day.

  3. My Mom, who hailed from Oneonta in upstate New York, brought her "Yankee" version of P'menter cheese with her to Vicksburg, Mississippi, after she married my Dad and moved back here with him in the '50's. She always blended a 3-ounce block of softened Philly cream cheese with Hellmann's mayo, and instead of just pimentos, she chopped up those green salad olives (which have the pimentos included) … and, of course, she used good ol' New York State extra sharp cheddar (which, by the way, the manager at our local A&P ordered especially for her). All her bridge club and garden club members always loved my Mom's "Yankee" Pimento Cheese, and it has been featured in many a local newspaper food article and in the local cookbooks. My mom is no longer with us, and I surely do miss her Pimento Cheese. I use her recipe to make it all the time; but somehow, it just doesn't taste the same as Mom's … I guess she must have also added in a big ol' spoonful of love when she made hers. I loved all your "Savannah" books, as well as "Deep Dish", and I just can't wait until your new book comes out … I know it will be a great "summer read"!! Have a lovely day!!

  4. Oh, and — I am mortified that I forgot to mention “Hissy Fit” and “Little Bitty Lies” in my blah-blah about your books that I love … I love those two books as well!!

  5. P’menter Cheese… one of my favs.
    had a great sandwich at watershed recently… yum~!
    Mary Kay you might want to head over to my little blog today. there is a special award for you.
    ~one vintage hag

  6. Conrad and Hinkle’s in Lexington, NC has the best store-bought pimento cheese, hands down.

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