Pâté du Sud

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader must have cheese on the mind. He must have had cheese on the mind since last month when he was enticed by (but did not purchase) the “Generous Lover” package from his favorite cheesemonger. But he did buy some cheese that got him thinking. Thinking enough to write…

So one night last weekend your Maximum Leader didn’t feel like cooking. Indeed, none of the members of his household felt like cooking. We probably could have just scrounged up food that we had in various states (frozen, leftover, pre-packaged - though to be honest we don’t keep a lot of pre-packaged food around) and fed ourselves individually with whatever we found. But your Maximum Leader wanted to “have a meal” together. (NB: Meals together might sound odd to some, but dinner together around the table is still a thing in the Villainschloss.) An executive decision was taken and it was determined that since Mrs. Villain and Villainette #2 were going to be going to the store to pick up some shelving materials they would stop on the way home at the Bojangles that was nearby and get a big ole package of fried chicken and sides to bring home. Your Maximum Leader specifically asked that they pick up an extra side of pimento cheese. Which they did. So the feast was brought to the Villainschloss and consumed by all.

Well… Mostly consumed by all. The chicken was eaten. The green beans were eaten. The cole slaw was eaten. The mac & cheese was eaten. The biscuits were eaten. But the pimento cheese was “sampled sparingly” by everyone who was not your Maximum Leader and then left. This surprised him. You see, the whole family is generally quite inclined to eat pimento cheese. We all love pimento cheese. Or so your Maximum Leader thought. When your Maximum Leader inquired why no one was eating the pimento cheese, he was informed by the rest of his family that they didn’t like it. Specifically, it was “too creamy.”

Now, once again, normally pimento cheese is a big hit with the family. But he got to thinking. Was this pimento cheese substantively different in flavor from others or was it just texture. After some light interrogation, it turns out that it was textural and not flavor. So your Maximum Leader thought some more about it. It has been a long time (probably well over a year in fact) since we have purchased pimento cheese. When we want it we make our own. It isn’t hard. One suspects that if you’ve lived south of the Mason-Dixon line for any length of time, you’ve probably been called upon to make pimento cheese at some point. Everyone’s is a little different, but they follow the same basic formula of cheddar cheese, finely diced pimentos, a dash of hot sauce or other spice, and mayonnaise. Your Maximum Leader likes to use cheddar, pepper jack cheese, lots of pimentos, very finely diced scallions (or shallots), a few dashes of hot sauce, and mayonnaise in his. So when it comes to the mayo, that is where there is some variation. Some people do like their pimento cheese creamier and add more mayo. Some, like your Maximum Leader, use just enough to hold everything together. And this is what the problem was for his family with the Bojangles pimento cheese. While it tasted just fine, it was much more like the consistency of a soft spread, than a soft cheese.

The final realization in this useless mental exercise was this… Pimento cheese was probably one of those dishes where we make it “the way we like it” so much that any significant deviation from the “norm” becomes unacceptable. There are other dishes like this in our culinary repertoire. Crab cakes for example. The family likes the crab cakes your Maximum Leader makes so much that they don’t order them when they are available at a restaurant. (Though there are a few places - very few, two come to mind - that are superior to his, they are not local and infrequently visited.) Broadly speaking, steaks also fall into this category. We don’t go out to steak houses all that often because we find that we prefer our steaks more. Mostly this is because our dear friend, who used to contribute here under the name “Smallholder”, raises a steer and a hog for us every year. His meat tastes different than what you buy at a typical grocery store. We have grown to prefer it. That and when we want some special cut we don’t normally have in our freezer, we go to our local butcher and he hooks us up. (NB: This is normally done for birthday dinners where nothing but a massive Tomahawk Cut Rib-eye will do. And we mean massive. Often weighing in around 2.5 to 3 pounds.)

Anyhoo… Your Maximum Leader has now noted that pimento cheese is now likely on that list of foods we just prefer our way rather than someone else’s.

Also, the title of this post is stolen from somewhere. Your Maximum Leader can’t recall exactly where. He thinks it might have been a Garden & Gun article from some years ago. Or from an old and now deceased friend… Pimento cheese at the Villainschloss is often called pâté du sud, or “Pate of the South.” It seems appropriate all in all.

Carry on.

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