I've been having the golf dreams again. When I gave the game up a couple of years ago, fellow travelers told me it was impossible. I had said the very same thing to folks along the way when, after helicoptering a 5-iron into the pond, they screamed, "That's it! I quit this fucking game!" And, sure enough, on almost every occasion, they were soon back at the driving range with some newfound secret tip that would fix everything and bring back the bliss of the fairways.
Thus far, I've been more resolved than most. I've not hit a golf ball in over a year now, and I haven't played an actual round of golf in over two. It may well be three since I've actually had fun on a golf course. And it may be four since I shot a decent round. In the daylight hours, I don't think about it much except when I pass by the three golf bags full of clubs on my way to the basement to empty the dehumidifier. But at night the dreams won't stop. Sometimes they are good dreams full of camaraderie and magnificent shots, but more often they are frustration dreams where it's getting dark even before we can reach the first tee, or I've forgotten my golf shoes and only have on unplayable leather-soled loafers, or the hole we're playing turns into some sort of Rube Goldberg contraption where we're swinging wet towels at the ball or trying to putt on an inclined glass surface. Last night I had a nice golf dream, however; it involved walking down a lovely par 5 fairway after an excellent drive just short of clear stream, leaving only 200 yards to a green tilted toward the player, invoking thoughts of making the elusive double eagle. I had retrieved my mid-round sandwich from my bag and was savoring the pimento cheese on wheat bread while dreaming the impossible dream of a second shot of a lifetime.
That was always my favorite snack to carry with me on trips to the links. They keep well in a golf bag and are as filling as a full lunch if you make them correctly. Plus, you don't have to worry about what's in the hot dogs most players get at the turn. You don't want to be thinking about trichinosis when you're facing a 30 foot downhill putt for a little cash and a lot of honor.
I didn't realize it at the time, but the pimento cheese sandwich and golf have a long history. At the Masters tournament coming up in April each year in Augusta, Georgia, this is one of the staples served on green wax paper at the concession stand and has been for years and years. One can imagine Bobby Jones actually living out my dream from last night on the back nine as the thousand azaleas loomed at the bottom of Number 13 just past Rae's Creek.
But enough about golf. How does one go about creating the perfect pimento cheese, which can be eaten as a sandwich or scooped up with fresh celery sticks? Here's how I do it.
First of all, don't dare try to buy pimento cheese already prepared at the grocery store. These are plastic tubs filled with some sort of orange goop made with processed cheese, red peppers which died for their sins who knows when, and some mysterious spices congealed together with some godawful salad dressing. They bear no resemblance to good old homemade pimento cheese. You can find good pimento cheese at some specialty catering outfit, but they'll charge you ten times what it would cost to make your own just as well.
I use an 8 ounce bag of shredded sharp orange (American) cheddar cheese from Kroger. There's no sense in buying a brand name. Kraft and Kroger both start with a "K" and that should be a hint. I pour that bag of cheap cheese in a mixing bowl and then add an equal amount of Black Diamond Canadian Extra Old white sharp cheddar. This is a little more expensive and Kroger doesn't make it. This Canadian cheddar doesn't work as well in items that require cooking, like a topping for potatoes au gratin, but it is wonderful for sandwiches. I use a salad shooter to shred the blocks of cheese, but if you want to spend time grating it yourself, more power to you.
Add a 4 ounce jar of pimentos after draining most of the juice. If you buy them already diced, you can save yourself the step of cutting them into small pieces. If you wanted to get really fancy schmancy about it, you could roast your own sweet red peppers on a grill and use those. That would probably be better, but it's hardly an excuse to fire up the grill unless you've got other stuff to cook.
Here are my secret ingredients. First of all, diced jalapeno peppers. How many? It depends on how much zip you want your pimento cheese to have, but I prefer about a teaspoon full, just to give it a hint of hot. Second, throw in a heaping tablespoon of some sort of red salsa. This not only gives it some extra flavor, but also gives it an overall pinkish color. Some say pink and orange don't mix. What do they know?
Then mix it all together with as much mayonnaise as you like. I use Kraft real mayo. How much? It depends on how creamy you want the spread to be, but a couple of heaping tablespoons is usually about right for me. If you'd like it to have a bit sweeter taste, you can use half salad dressing and half mayo. I prefer full mayo, myself.
The mixing is a fairly intense hand workout, but make sure it's all mixed up well enough to distribute the flavors, and then take a stalk of fresh celery or a wheat thin cracker and dip up a dollop and see if it's the way you like it. If not, add some more of whatever you think is missing.
Southern novelist, Reynolds Price, has called his mother's homemade pimento cheese the peanut butter of his childhood. Some have called it Carolina Caviar or Southern Pâté. Regardless of what you call it, it's darn good stuff, whether you enjoy golf or not.