Monday, January 11, 2010

Hell has Frozen Over

I ate store-bought pimento cheese. And I liked it.

Before today, hell would have frozen over before I ate pimento cheese from the grocery store. Each time I got near the dairy cooler, I cringed at the horrible tubs stacked up like wood filler at Home Depot. Each container of the Southern imposter glowed with a strange orange that I can only imagine resembles nuclear waste. I am positive that not even a tablespoon of it was made by Southern hands. In fact, some Yankee, obviously still intent on destroying the Confederacy, probably sends it down here simply in hopes of slowly killing us all, one slather at a time.

Today was a different day. While innocently shopping for a block of extra sharp Cracker Barrel cheddar cheese (for making a batch of my own pimento cheese this afternoon), I noticed a small container of cheese spread that actually looked like pimento cheese. Considering myself an expert in this sacred favorite, I actually even made sure no one was watching as I moved in for a better look. It’s from Pawley’s Island. Mmm. It’s made with real cheese with jalapenos. Mmmm…

I read the label and it’s something that could have come out of my own kitchen. I could pronounce each and every ingredient. I slip it into my cart and continue my shopping with a shade of shame. I feel as if I turned on my heritage, like trying to dull the accent in my voice, and in general, committed a cardinal Southern sin. I literally know no one that buys pimento cheese from the grocery store, and until today, I didn’t want to. I prayed no one will notice what was on the conveyor belt as my receipt grew from the register.

I actually waited several hours at home before I opened it and spread it on a cracker. With sweaty palms and a racing heart, I was still very uncomfortable with what I was doing. I often buy ingredients and products at the grocery that I haven’t tried. I like to be informed on what’s good and what’s not. But this…this crossed the line. What would my grandmother say?

On the first bite, I was shocked. Stunned really. This South Carolina pimento cheese was good. It’s not like mine, but it is pretty dang good. I’ll buy it again. It’s a little like finding out the truth about Santa. All I believed to be true about one of the most Southern of all foods has been altered. But I can adapt, especially if I can do with the creamy, comforting, slightly spicy spread on a big fat piece of white bread.