When the Southern appetite is in dire need of comfort food for a snack, there’s nothing like a homemade pimento and cheese spread slathered between two slices of white bread.
This soothing food ritual was instilled decades ago when pimento and cheese sandwiches were a basic in our large family; however, one day in the late 1970s, our old-fashioned recipe got “bammed,” as chef Emeril would say.
It happened during one of our yearly visits to Franklin, where my sister and her husband had a music studio. Quite often, we young mothers would lunch at Miss Daisy’s Tea Room while our husbands jammed with other musicians.
We girls had taken Momma to the Tea Room where I personally ordered a small basket of Miss Daisy’s pimento and cheese finger sandwiches. Expecting the basic soothing recipe, I took a bite and my taste buds popped … Miss Daisy had added Tabasco sauce to the Southern icon and we all loved it.
Our family had never spent money on Tabasco sauce because we grew our own peppers and fermented them in vinegar for about a month … homegrown turnips and collard greens were naked without it.
Anyway, as the decades passed, time took its toll on my culinary common sense and I began making my pimento and cheese spread with regular or low-fat Cheddar cheese mixed with low-fat mayonnaise because weight loss had become more important than taste.
I even tried to make that tasteless gunk “pop” by adding jalapeños but it was like trying to turn a sow’s ear into a porterhouse steak. I didn’t realize how bad my imitations had gotten until a co-worker brought a pure dish of the Southern icon to last year’s Christmas party.
Hers didn’t have Tabasco added but the old-fashioned recipe was the same. Throughout the remaining workday, I visited the employee lounge’s refrigerator so often, I wound up apologizing to myself.
For those who need justification, I recommend making this comfort food for medicinal reasons for teenagers who lack ambition or to induce a healthy dose of curiosity to stave off old age for your parent.
And then, save some for yourself.
1 pound American processed cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 2-ounce jar pimentos, diced with juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
(To maintain Southern integrity and balance, don’t change the proportions.)
Grate cheese into mixing bowl. Add mayonnaise, pimento with juice and salt. Mix well.
To achieve Miss Daisy’s “perfect pop,” add 1⁄4 tsp of Tabasco sauce.
Makes 2 2/3 cups.
Calories: Don’t know and don’t care.
Concerning Miss Daisy’s Tea Room, it is still located in downtown Franklin in a marvelous turn of the century home and is as enormously popular as her cookbooks.
In 1978, I bought a copy of her hand-typed, first cookbook for $4.95.
(Leba also writes the “Upon Reflection” column every other Sunday in the Banner. Leba.email@example.com.)