The request was for pimento cheese.
I can make chicken salad, and if I'm feeling fancy I can whip up tuna salad with a twist that is quite tasty. My toasted turkey sandwich topped with cheese has been a favorite. And peanut butter and jelly? Child, please. I'm an expert at that.
I called mama. She wasn't home. I looked on the Internet. There are 422,000 search results for pimento cheese. The first informed me that pimento cheese is a well-known staple in the south that any true Southerner would know how to make. The second said it is popular at The Masters golf tournament and in the Philippines. And the third gave me recipes that included Carnation milk and dill pickles.
I may not know pimento cheese, but I know mama didn't put Carnation milk or pickles in it.
"May makes great homemade pimento cheese. Everybody loves it," my husband offered, sensing my distress as I left the house headed to the grocery store. I didn't even have cheese - the main ingredient. My good friend May. She would help me.
I texted her.
What do you put in your pimento cheese? I punched into my phone in the parking lot.
A few minutes later...
It is an old family recipe, May texted back. I buy it at Publix.
I had three people back home expecting homemade pimento cheese. I am not above purchasing something and pulling it off as my own creation, but I couldn't get away with it this time. They would be there... watching me.
"Have you ever made pimento cheese?" I asked a little older lady standing next to me in the aisle. She looked harmless - sweet, actually, with soft wrinkles around her eyes and a grandmotherly smile. She smelled of rose-scented powder and I envisioned her a baker of homemade pies and a knitter of baby blankets.
She turned to me, looked visibly afraid, grabbed her buggy, and sped away as fast as her comfortable shoes could take her. I should have brushed my hair.
"Do you know how to make pimento cheese?" I asked a younger woman near the pimentos. At least she didn't run.
"What's pimento cheese?" she asked and I immediately knew she wasn't from around these parts. Somewhere across the ocean. And it wasn't the Philippines.
I gave up. I bought cheese and a small jar of bright red pimentos. I was going to have to wing it.
Then, at that very moment, the heavens broke open and the sound of angels filled the air and I looked up and saw, walking towards me in the glow of the Wal-Mart, the one person who at this very moment could rescue me.
And the Lord said, let there be homemade pimento cheese.
"Oh, honey, you just take some sharp grated cheese, and chop up your pimentos real fine... you've got some pimentos, right?... and add you some mayonnaise and salt and pepper to taste and then I add a pinch, just a pinch, of sugar, and you mix it up good. That's all you do."
I made it. They ate it. They even went back for seconds. And it really wasn't that hard. I have to remember to tell May how easy it is.
Pimento cheese? Child, please. Thanks to mama, I'm an expert.
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.