by Evan Hatch
Stan’s is one of those North Carolina answers. Like Duke’s. And Sweet. And “Yes I want slaw on that.” The question is, “What is the bestest pimento cheese ever?” It is rich. It is mayonnaisey. It is so creamy. It is from Burlington. I have not always taken a lot of pride in being from Burlington, North Carolina. Bur-Vegas it was called by bored teenagers. But looking back on it – Burlington proves to be the source of a great plenty of southern food icons. J and G called Burlington home. Zack’s Hotdogs still stands proud. Biscuitville began in Burlington. And it is the bestest pimento cheese ever.
Pimento cheese may be as contested as barbeque. That is an incredibly bold statement, I know. Barbecue is called the “champagne of the South.” Pimento cheese is referred to as the caviar. Look it up. It has been called Southern caviar. Perhaps because it is good on crackers. Truly, like barbecue, it’s all pretty different, and it’s all pretty freaking great. So pimento cheese is as simple as it is complex. Basic recipe calls for cheese (real or processed), Duke’s, pimento. Variants and additions include Worcestershire, garlic, hot sauce, vinegar, cayenne, jalapeno, onion, salt, pepper – it is all up to the maker.
In the present Southern food-centered climate, pimento cheese has become the rage. It is dressed up, spread out, dipped into, smeared on – all manner of food from white bread, tomatoes and bacon, to scallops and porterhouse steaks. It really is all pretty good – minus any foolish recipes using salad dressing – from South Carolina’s Palmetto Cheese, to Crook’s Corner’s chef Bill Smith’s sharp take served near pepper jelly and crackers. The variants change with region and imagination, family lineage, and just plain taste.
But some things just don’t need to be messed with. Many other cheese spreads have challenged and fallen. And the Original Stan’s Pimento Cheese threw down the gauntlet long ago. Trust a Burlingtonite, we know our food.
For more information, read Emily Wallace’s thesis:
It Was There for Work: Pimento Cheese in the Carolina Piedmont
by Emily Elizabeth Wallace, M.A. Department of American Studies in Folklore at UNC-Chapel Hill, 2010
Biscuitville & Stan’s team up!
Available at Food Lion, Lowe’s and Harris Teeter.
Evan is a folklorist currently working with the North Carolina Folklife Institute in Cumberland, Hoke, Robeson & Scotland counties. Since 2002, he worked in Middle Tennessee documenting traditional musical and material culture. He was producer at Spring Fed Records and served as President of the Tennessee Folklore Society.