the great new england cheese-off

Janet, Hemlockman, Ardell... All you Southerners brace yourself. I know this is hard to believe, but here it is:

Yankees have never heard of pimento cheese!

This fact came up at lunch recently. I was telling everybody what a shame it is they can't eat pimento cheese and somebody said I should get them some, and one thing led to another and Benny sent us some pimento cheese! Packed with little freezy pouches! We couldn't decide if we should try Mrs Stratton's (my favorite) or the fancy schmancy deli brand Benny recommends. So he sent both.

Here they are, lovingly displayed for the New Englanders' first excursion into fine cup salad eating. That's Mrs. Stratton's on the left, and Nabeel's on the right. You can also see the corner of the potato chip bag. Very important. Not shown but definitely there were tomatoes, mayo and white bread. Sonia, who is not a true New Englander but a Texan, has had pimento cheese before, and did an excellent job of hunting and gathering cheap white bread from a gas station. But I have to say that she was adamant about NOT adding mayo to the tomato side of the sandwich, and made it impossible for me to convince the Yankees that it is an essential ingredient. Oh yeah, we also had ground black pepper, another essential ingredient.

The "rodent limb" article has nothing to do with pimento cheese. I just added it to the table for ambience. Presentation is everything!

The results:

Diners were asked
a) how do you like pimento cheese?
b) which do you prefer, Mrs. Stratton's or Nabeel's?
c) anything else?

A Chris

did not answer survey

B Molly

It was fine... However I'd prefer it as a spread on a cracker as opposed to a sandwich. And I wouldn't ever add mayo. (fool!)

Nabeel's had a more "natural" flavor (ex., I could taste the roasted red pepper), so I'd probably go that route. Mrs. Stratton's' tasted a bit like velveeta...

It wasn't as scary as I was expecting.

C Kelli

will not eat cheese or cheesy things

D Kathe

did not return survey, but came over and verbally told me... uh, something. I'm not sure. I think she said it was okay, but would be better on crackers (idiot!)

E Ron

Food wussy. Will not try new things.

F Sonia

1. Great.
2. Nabeel's.
3. Everyone else at our lunch table is a bunch of losers, apparently. Won't eat processed cheese spread... I don't think they're even FROM this country!

G Tara

It was a wonderful event. Sorry, but I have to say that my taste buds (and stomach) did not like the Mrs Stratton's . Nabeel's was much better, in my opinion.

H Adam

I thought it was great -- and I prefer the Nabeel's.

I Wendy

Sorry, I didn't care for it. The Nabeel's looked better though.
And the chips were great! :-)
Give Benny our thanks.

not shown Me

Mrs. Stratton's is the BEST!

Fun Facts:

Wendy very carefully removed all of the pimento from her pimento cheese! And still could not handle it! And she was the most eager of all eaters, because her middle name is Stratton. Then she went for the Nabeel's! What is it with her anyway?

It is not at all like Chris to be silent. Very odd that he did not respond to the survey.

I don't think ANYBODY even TRIED the little thin layer of mayo next to the tomatos!

More kudos to Sonia! She commandeered the toaster from the cafeteria so we could toast the white bread! And we got "scolded" by facilities for having a toaster under the fire alarm! WHEE!

Sonia also said pimento cheese reminds her of funeral food, which caused much clucking and poo-pooing from the Yankees. So she dug up the following UNDENIABLE PROOF!

"... Technically, pimento cheese should be called pimiento cheese, since it's made with pimiento peppers. But somewhere along the way, Texans, known for malapropisms and creative spellings, (heck, the name of the state is even a refashioning of a Caddoan word, Tejas, which means friends) took out the extra "i" and decided to call it pimento. It certainly rolls off the tongue a lot easier that way.... Not surprisingly, the same qualities that make it a great celebration food—its softness, its tastiness, its lack of challenge and its ability to sit out on a buffet for hours without refrigeration—also make it a popular funeral food. I don’t mean to sound ghoulish, but death is a fact of life. And my mom, who’s an Episcopalian priest, has had many experiences with Texas funeral services and confirms that at every one she officiates at, there is always pimento cheese...."

link to above evidence

And from finalist 1 in the 2003 Pimento Cheese Invitational (yes, you read that right):

"... my "Pimento Cheese Story" is about my very special aunt who lived there her entire life... An indication of how closely her pimento cheese sandwiches were associated with her is indicated by the fact that her minister, Daniel Hathorne, mentioned them in his sweet eulogy for her. He said that he didn’t know who had been making the pimento cheese sandwiches in Heaven before she got there, but they were going to have to move over now because she was going to be in charge.... It is not that she didn't have other items in her food repertoire, she was a marvelous and experimental cook. (When she would eat out, she would come home and try to replicate something if she enjoyed it.) She just knew that everyone loved (and expected) her sandwiches. So, anyone was ill, had a death in a family, had company coming or there was a church gathering here she came with her wonderful platters of sandwiches. She made them for my parent's fiftieth wedding anniversary, but most of them never made it out of the church kitchen, my friends helping with the celebration and family members sneaking back had pretty much devoured them before we could put them out. When a relative lost her mother, her granddaughter Beth Mann then either 3 or 4, took the sandwiches that Lella brought to a back bedroom because she didn't want to share them!"

link to above evidence


Benny said...

Your thoroughness in the contest was admirable.
I, like you, am surprised at the lukewarm reaction to this ambrosia of funeral foods.
I'm not surprised they liked Nabeel's better. But I also know of the appeal of Mrs. Stratton's.

Mayonnaise next to tomatoes, PLEASE!!!

Benny said...

WAIT A MINUTE! What about the rodent limb incident? That isn't the place you and I always eat is it? That was some kind of "Garden", not "Gourmet".

What happened???


Janet said...

Aaack! What's wrong with these people?
(just they eat banana sandwiches up there?)

Janet said...

sorry....I shoulda said "nanner samwiches"...

slatts said...


You Lunch-People are way beyond cool with all your taste tests and film watching and surveys and all....

I don't feel worthy to return.

I'll just keep walking.....

BonzoGal said...

Am I considered a Northerner, or a Westerner? (Since I'm from Northern California, would that be both?)

I've never heard of pimento cheese, and I thought I knew all the cheeses in existence. How is this cheese sandwich made? Do the potato chips go in the sandwich or on the side?

Janet, I've had peanut butter and banana- is that what you mean?

I love Southern food, but there isn't much of it around here, sad to say.

The last funeral I went to (Eric's great uncle's) had humuus!

Jed said...

As a dedicated fan of pimentos and all things stuffed in olives, I can imagine having a taste for such a spread, but with the exclusion of French or sour dough, white bread tastes like styrofoam. At least all varieties Wonder Breadish.

As one who heralds both from the East and the West, (having thus far avoided the South and the Midwest) I can attest to such rare pleasures as pickled eggs with beats, but am more familiar with bridge mix as a traditional funerary confection.

I have also had the misfortune to acquaint myself with such evangelical treats as opaque green jello salad with a marshmallow outer coating and fruit suspended in the middle, and am wary of all things congealed brick-like in a casserole dish. I am familiar with "casserole" more as a threat than a promise.

I try to avoid most foods that are deliberately made to resemble something other than food, for instance: fruit salad made to resemble a dog, or any other meat or vegetation that has been assembled feebly in a whimsical but otherwise unapetizing tableau. Food is should not be arranged as scenery.

Janet said...

Hey Bonzo...yes! peanut butter and banana...or banana and mayo (my favorite!) Although my grandmother made them with peanut butter on one side and mayo on the other (sounds gross, but really wasn't so bad!)

Hey Benny....don'tcha wish you could just capture the Nabeels' aroma and take it home with you?

Mark Martin said...

A severed rodent limb showed up in somebody's mu shu vegetable and the restaurant nosedived into oblivion.

No, Benny, It's not the one you're thinking of, but at one time it WAS a great restaurant. It had declined in recent years, but I don't think it had gotten so bad they had rats in the food. I think (and most people think) the rodent limb was from one of the big industrial-size food cans. But still... even if you feel pretty sure that must be what happened, well, like you say


SRBissette said...

"Massachusetts" does not = all yankees. Good poll, but hardly a representative pimento slice of yankeedom.

I not only grew up loving pimento cheese -- born in Burlington, VT, raised in Essex Jct., Duxbury and Colbyville, VT -- my dad sold it in his store, too. Bissette's Market, first in Duxbury VT (corner of Rtes. 100 and 2), then in Colbyville (Rte. 100).

Here's one yankee who loves the stuff, always loved the stuff, and is going to go out and buy a package today since this blog reminded me how much I love pimento cheese.

molly said...

Wait, wait, Slatts... We're too cool for YOU? I thought it was the other way around! Come to lunch, at least every once in a while!

Yankee response
Re: banana & PB -- YES! YUM! I like to put a teeny bit of honey on it sometimes.

Re: banana and/or PB with mayo -- NO! Mayo can make or break your sammich, and it's usually break.

HemlockMan said...

Kelli and Ron are obviously Soviet-era commie spies. Turn them in.

However, for the best pimento cheese of all time, buy the special deli version from Harris Teeter supermarkets. If I was going to believe in a god, it would be because of Harris Teeter pimento cheese.

Yankee story: When I was six years old, my dad built his own truck-bed camper (the kind you see on trucks all the time now, but never did in 1963). He put it on his Chevy two-ton pickup truck and loaded me and my little brother and my sister and my mom and off we went to visit our Yankee relatives in New Jersey and Maine. When we got to Maine, one of my uncles saw a big gallon tin of sorghum syrup in the camper and asked if he could try it. (My dad had brought three cans of it--to give away as gifts, I sincerely hope). My uncle and the rest of my Yankee relatives had never seen nor heard of sorghum syrup. They were bowled over. To the extent that they traded my dad even-Stephen for pure maple syrup. Which is highway robbery, as sorghum syrup is about as cheap as water.

Yankees--sometimes I can't believe they kicked our asses so thoroughly during the War of Northern Aggression.

dogboy443 said...

I have lived in the Northeast my entire life. I have travelled all over the country. My Mom is from Louisville Kentucky and my Dad was Polish and born in Canada before settling in Massachusetts. Please, please, not call me a Yankee. The Red Sox blood in my veins abhors the term.