Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The most Southern Southern food is vegetarian. At least sometimes.

What is that?

Sandwich on Arnold's yummy multigrain sandwich thins

Pimento Cheese!

If you're familiar with pimento cheese, you probably either love it or hate it, or maybe you've never had a really good batch. As a kid, I ate fluorescent orange pimento cheese from the grocery store's lunchmeat aisle as an alternative to slick ham slices. It was always sweet, chunky, and an a disturbingly unnatural color.

I can't remember exactly when I had my pimento cheese awakening. It might have been around the end of high school. Since then, each trip home has been highlighted by a trip to the deli that is famous for its pimento cheese sandwich. Yes, this is also one of those places where people also order fully cooked hams and turkeys. And I walk right by them to the coveted pimento cheese fridge.

I have tried making my own pimento cheese from a variety of recipes, but nobody does it like Papa at Holiday Deli & Ham in Memphis. My father was kind enough to export a tub for me to take home when I saw him over the weekend. This concoction is tasty in sandwiches, especially with a slice of fresh tomato and lettuce, or even smeared on a celery stick.

In its most basic form, pimento cheese is well, shredded cheese and pimentos with seasonings and some kind of binding agent, maybe mayonnaise. I've tried Paula Deen's recipe, others that call for grated onion, others that have two dozen ingredients ranging from Durkee Famous Sauce to Worcestershire and garlic and beer. For now, at least, pimento cheese is one more of those things worth getting ready made.

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