When Memphis-based food writer Perre Coleman Magness considered writing a cookbook, she was amazed no one had tackled one of her favorite subjects: pimento cheese.
“I love pimento cheese,” Magness said. “I have found ways to incorporate those great flavors into a lot of dishes.”
Those variations, including pigs in pimento cheese blankets, pimento cheesesteak sandwiches and eggs Benedict with pimento cheese hollandaise, flesh out Magness’ book, “Pimento Cheese The Cookbook: 50 Recipes From Snacks to Main Dishes Inspired by the Classic Southern Favorite.”
Magness, 44, author of The Runaway Spoon blog, has two events this week promoting that book. She will speak at 6 p.m. Friday at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill and 11 a.m. Saturday at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village, near Pittsboro.
No one writes a whole book about pimento cheese without having some strong opinions on what makes a good version. Magness insists upon good cheddar cheese, not the kind that is already grated and sold in a bag; good mayonnaise, such as Duke’s or Hellmann’s but never salad dressing, like Miracle Whip; and absolutely only pimento peppers, not roasted red peppers or jalapenos.
Magness can understand Southerners’ love affair with this humble cheese spread, which first appeared in a cookbook in 1867. Whenever she would mention that she was working on a pimento cheese cookbook, they wanted to tell her about how their aunt made it with pickles or their mother made it with mustard.
Those who live outside the South may not understand the allure. “Then you eat it,” Magness said, “and you understand.”