Pimento Cheese, Please!
Last fall, Kickstarter featured a project with the goal of raising money for a movie about pimento cheese. Seventy-four backers, including Deep South, and $2,625 later, “Pimento Cheese, Please: A Film About the South’s Beloved Spread” met its goal and was deemed “funding successful.” Since then, Richmond, Virginia, filmmakers Nicole Lang and Christophile Konstas have been traveling the South in search of great pimento cheese spread and getting their film ready for an October release (see the trailer below). Former intern Sarah Matalone interviewed Nicole (pictured below) about her idea for the film and obvious love of the South’s favorite cheese dish.
I gotta ask, why pimento cheese?
I’m a New York City-born Yankee who had never, ever heard of or tasted pimento cheese until 2006. I was browsing the web looking for a new appetizer for the holidays, and I discovered the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Pimento Cheese Invitational. (I have since joined that fabulous organization, and the film will premiere at their annual symposium this fall.) I grew up eating fluffernutters, so as soon as I made pimento cheese, I was obsessed. It incorporates some of my favorite foods: cheese, peppers and mayo.
There appears to be no history of the dish and, as there are whole regions that are in the dark and missing out, I thought I needed to spread the word.
Why do you think pimento cheese is so popular right now?
I personally think Southern food is popular right now because it is the original American “slow food.” It’s our nation’s food history. I think that pimento cheese itself is gaining popularity as displaced Southerners want to share their food memories outside of the South and because the dish is so accessible. A friend of mine from California who had never heard of it, in an attempt to describe it to her mom, called it “cheese salad.” So you can see, for non-Southerners, it’s really new and strange … and delicious.
You were on a road trip to South Carolina for the movie recently. Where did you go and what did you discover about pimento cheese there?
I am a huge fan of the food scene in South Carolina, specifically in Charleston, so we made sure to eat at some of the great spots there. We learned a lot too. We talked to chefs, a historian, cookbook authors and a couple who make a pimento cheese called “Palmetto Cheese” out on Pawley’s Island. I had never been there before, and it was like paradise. One thing I love about Charleston is the rampant availability of boiled peanuts, which I missed out on this trip. Maybe that is the next movie.
How do you prefer your pimento cheese? Do you have a favorite preparation style?
The first recipe for pimento cheese I made, which was me winging it from numerous recipes I found online, I have stuck with. Extra sharp orange cheddar, box-grated, mayonnaise, diced jarred pimentos with some of their juice, cayenne, lemon juice and salt and pepper. I don’t measure anything. I go on how much cheddar I put in and add the moist ingredients until I get a chunky, scoopable mass. I have been known to add it to my deviled eggs filling as well.
When do you expect to release the movie?
We will definitely have a premiere here in my adopted city of Richmond, Virginia, and one in New York City, but I believe it is to be first seen at the SFA Symposium in Oxford, Mississippi (October 28-30).
What’s the story behind your blog, “Food Punk?”
Food and music are obviously very sensory arts. Before working in food myself, I spent most of my adult life working in record stores and was briefly in touring bands. Many musicians I know end up in food. There is definitely a creative connection between the two. I personally reject elitism in food and respond mostly to downhome, Mom and Pop sort of places. The punk aesthetic is simple, guttural and engaging to the community, so when I set out to create a place to talk about my passions, I decided that I am not a foodie or a gourmand. I’m a food punk.
“Pimento Cheese, Please” the movie premiers at the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Symposium on October 29 in Oxford, Mississippi. In Richmond, a screening will be held at the historic Hippodrome Theater in Jackson Ward November 9. A reception with food from area restaurants and of course pimento cheese will follow the show. DVDs will be available sometime in November.
Photos courtesy of Nicole Lang and Christophile Konstas.