Wednesday, February 13, 2008
I was at the grocery store salad bar; you know how i love a good salad bar. This one is in the Shopper's Food Warehouse by work. It isn't super-duper, but it is certainly acceptable and sometimes has odd offerings, like sushi. (who would eat sushi form a grocery store salad bar?) Up by the pudding, past the jello there was a pan of lumpy, orange stuff. I poked at it a bit with the spoon and suddenly thought This is pimento cheese! Who would ever think to put pimento cheese on a salad bar? Why is there pimento cheese in Baltimore? Who would make pimento cheese in the winter? I mean it was a fast and furious flurry of thoughts. I ended up gettting some and it was delicious. As i was enjoying its pimento cheesiness at home i got to thinking about memory food - you know, those foods that are so closely related to events in your past that the smell, taste or even the mere mention of them are forever linked together. I am amazed at our capacity for detailed sense memory. For those of you who may not know - and i'm betting there a lot of you - pimento cheese is a thick spread normally made into sandwiches that consists of (big shocker) minced cheese, pimentos and a binding agent of some sort (mayo or dressing or such). The only place i ever really had pimento cheese was at my Grandma Craig's house. When i was a kid i would spend part of the summer in Ohio, splitting my time between my 2 sets of grandparents and Rickki. Often it would be planned that i was at the Craig house (obviously my mom's parents) for the Craig or Noble (Grandma's family) Reunion. Grandma and I would make pimento cheese, banana bread, and some type of "experiment" recipe (i remember the year of crazy jello molds with cottge cheese (better than it sounds - it would have to be, huh?) decorated with grape clusters and the chocolate stained glass cookies made with colored mini-marshmallows) to take to the events. Her pimento cheese was legendary and much requested. I associate pimento cheese with learning to cook at my Grandma's, the Midwest, long summer days, watching Great-Uncle Jimmy (i'm not even sure whose uncle he was) whittle intricate faces from lifeless chunks of wood, playing Trivial Pursuit with realtives i only saw once a year and who didn't know that this 11 year-old was gonna kick their butts, trying to figure out how i was related to so-and-so, and it being hot, hot, hot. Every memory, every sensation of those summers came to me as i ate. I also remembered that i inherited my Grandma's meat grinder. [You see, the key to good pimento cheese is that you have to use a meat grinder to mince the hard cheese into submission. Oh, and you have to use jarred, whole pimentos - have you ever even seen whole pimentos?] This meat grinder is ancient - my mom remebers her mother using it in their kitchen when she (mom) was a little girl. It is metal and ridiculously heavy. I have only ever used it twice - both times to make pimento cheese. Now i really want to dig it out of the box it's in and crank out some pimento cheese; maybe when spring comes. What food triggers a flood of memories for you?