I knew Nicole Lang came to Richmond on a mission. Her infatuation with the River City was no secret. Now that she’s settled in and making desserts for Black Sheep and Mamma Zu’s and maybe for you, her first project has gone public: a movie about a southern phenomenon, the festive looking spread called pimento cheese. Personally, I’m fascinated (and not just because I can already hear the impeccable southern soul soundtrack she’s probably assembling). Neither my wife nor I can ever recall having eaten pimento cheese, not during our Northern Virginia childhoods, nor as RVA transplants the past 15 years. But, apparently, we’ve been missing out. And now we’re gonna get straightened out by the red speckled spread. But, the full education will only be available if the movie gets made. And that’s where you come in. In anticipation of your support, Nicole is sharing some of her pimento recommendations below.
I was born in NYC and raised in the NORTH.
There, we ate peanut butter and jelly or sometimes if our parents were feeling crazy, fluffernutters. We were never given what my friend from California refers to as “cheese salad”.
“You know, like tuna salad, but with shredded cheddar cheese and pimentos instead of tuna”. The concoction she was describing is what you all here in the SOUTH lovingly call “puhminnah” cheese. Or rather, Pimento Cheese (or in actuality, pimiento, but that is a discussion for another day).
I first heard of it in the year 2006.
That is how long I have been missing out on the glory of PC. I was born in the 70’s so as you can see it’s way too long to go without something so delicious. Cheese, spice, mayonnaise, roasted peppers! Who can resist a combo like that?
It astounded me, that an individual highly interested in all manner of food could have missed out on something that is so standard in many parts of the country, below the Mason Dixon, for sure but also all the way out to Texas….and in Canada..(?).
However far this magical spread/dip/burger topping/celery stalk filling has reached, it’s origins are decidedly Southern. But why? And how? I intend to find out and am in the process of scouring the South to explore homes, kitchens, BBQs, picnics, restaurants and any other place else pimento cheese turns up.
(Which, by the way, apparently includes real estate open houses?! A friend recently told me he encountered Pimento Cheese at not one, but TWO separate Open House events- what happened to cookies?)
Once finished, I will present these findings in a documentary entitled “Pimento Cheese, Please!” If you click that link, you can see the teaser for the film, as well as the puzzled faces of many New Yorkers.
They just don’t get it. Hopefully if I can get funding to finish the film, I can change all that. I am seeking small pledges in exchange for Pimento Cheese related rewards on Kickstarter.
Finally, people who have been denied pimento cheese their entire lives, will be given a history on this regional favorite! They will introduce it to their families and start new traditions of serving it while watching the New York Giants or the Boston Patriots!
Okay, let’s not get too crazy, perhaps the Northern pallet is not ready. In fact, in my travels I met a born and bred Texan who hated the stuff.
We can’t all love Pimento Cheese, I guess. We can try though, which brings me to our fair city of Richmond, VA and the PC available here that I have tried.
My top three picks are:
- The Black Sheep: They serve a sandwich called The Bridge Club, which not only features pimento cheese, but also a fantastic cheese relish!
- Lemaire at The Jefferson Hotel: Theirs is a white cheddar with a salty bite, served with a toasted baguette. Classy!
- Ellwood Thompson’s: The local grocery’s house made spread, available in the prepared food aisle by the cheese dept. is classic. If my memory is correct I believe it contains jalapenos.
- Comfort An homage to the classic recipe, with the adornment of very finely diced onion and herbs to add both crunch and depth.
That’s my short list. I am interested in expanding it though, so if you have a suggestion, please send it my way, you could leave a comment on the film’s Kickstarter page if you’d like, or right here on Mr. Guard’s blog!
Why make a documentary on a simple and humble cheese spread, you ask?
Well to be honest, I am not the verbose, let’s get metaphysical on our dinner type. My food blog is not a discussion forum and at the end of the day I love to eat and cook with people, not dissect and deconstruct. My film is really about people. People who eat a deeply rooted Southern specialty. They bring it to funerals and barbecues, they make it at holidays and celebrations and they keep some in the fridge, just cos’ they always have. Their grandmother taught them the family recipe and they feed it to their kids. Instead of going the way of tomato aspic, this relic foodstuff is more popular than ever, folks can’t let it go. I think it’s rise in popularity has much to do with our nation’s current food tone. The return to gardening and preserving, eating locally, homesteading, “making do” if you will. Using humble ingredients to make something special and tasty to give your loved ones.
I hope to get it on film.
Thank you for listening to my rant.
Pimento Cheesliy Yours,