Reading Matters

Reynolds Price’s recipe for pimento cheese

I mentioned recently having rediscovered my old “Great American Writers’ Cookbook,” edited by Dean Faulner Wells, with an introduction by Craig Claiborne. I’m addicted to reading it, and now I’ve latched onto a recipe for pimento cheese by the late Duke novelist Reynolds Price.

Price calls pimento cheese the “peanut butter of my childhood – homemade by Mother.”

He says he suspects it’s a Southern invention, that he’s seldom met a non-Southerner who knew what it was. When Price acquired a Cuisinart, he tried to reconstruct his mother’s recipe, with a change or two. Here goes:

“Grate a pound or more of extra sharp cheddar cheese. Chop coarsely one jar of pimentoes (four ounces, more if you like) with one or two cloves of garlic. Mix into the grated cheese with plenty of freshly ground pepper and a minimum of salt; then gradually add enough homemade mayonnaise (maybe three tablespoons) to form a stiff chunky paste. Sometimes I add a little lemon juice or a very little wine vinegar or Tabasco – nothing to disguise the bare cheese and peppers and good mayonnaise. I’ve been caught eating a pound in two days (though it keeps well), especially if life is hard. On rough brown bread, it’s a sovereign nerve-salve.”