Beyond the pimento cheese: Cooking during a pandemic

A week ago, I wrote about pimento cheese. The world had seemed to change overnight due to coronavirus, and I wanted to get that pimento cheese blog written before I dove headfirst into the work that needed to be done for my job and family.

I saw a spot-on meme this weekend that said, “What a year this week has been.” Because last week was a doozy. One of my sons had to be moved to a safer place. Churches, restaurants and bars were closed. Coronavirus cases have now been confirmed in our county and community, not just on the news and in faraway places.  

In the last week, I’ve seen intriguing social-media posts showing off the food people are cooking and eating during self-quarantine. I’ve seen lots of photos and recipes in all my beloved food magazines and blogs about what to cook while you’re stuck at home.

Yet, after a couple of visits to the food stores this past week, I realized fancy-free cooking won’t be possible for a while. I love trying new recipes which usually necessitates buying ingredients that I don’t already have. But if you’ve seen supermarket shelves lately, you know that not all the usual foods and ingredients are available.

I was literally writing that pimento cheese post last week when I received a text from our friend Susan Arnold, pastor at Blountville United Methodist Church:

As I was praying this morning, the Lord reminded me of you and Mike. You both are really good at being creative, making recipes and eating what you have in the pantry. Would you all consider sharing some of the creative ways to think about how to use foods that you already have and how to build meals around that? I just think it would help so many people to think about this in these times.

I loved that suggestion! I thought about it all week. Mike and I are pretty frugal to start with, and on the average night, even before the pandemic, we often decided not to buy anything but to use up what we have. It helps that I have a house with limited storage and shelf space.

Sometimes the food gets a bit weird, to be honest, especially when my husband is cooking. (Smile.) In the last week, we’ve made potato salad, pot roast, mustard greens and bratwurst, and a pasta-broccoli-deli-ham dish, all using what was in the refrigerator, freezer, or pantry.

I will share some of those creations with you soon. I’m grateful to Susan for the suggestion.

In the meantime, let me share three responses that followed the pimento-cheese post, which brightened an otherwise trying day.

From Lala Smith of Cokesbury United Methodist Church, Knoxville, TN: Until we began buying ours at Costco, we used to make our own.  Found the recipe in a Southern Living magazine, a first-place winner in one of their contests … Extra sharp and sharp cheese (block, grated at home); cream cheese; mayo; Worcester; pimentos; jalapeños (to taste); salt and pepper.

From Anne Travis of Ebenezer United Methodist Church, Knoxville, TN: I loved the blog! My grandmother’s handwritten recipe spells it “pimiento.” I think it can be either. Anyway, she basically used the same recipe, except she notes to add “a little juice from the pimiento jar (not all of it) and a little sweet onion” to add more flavor. My favorite comfort food!

And from Regina Turpin of Eleazar United Methodist Church in Tellico Plains, TN: I enjoy your blog so much! You asked for our favorite pimiento cheese recipe, and this one is my go-to!

Here’s a link to Regina’s recipe, Our Favorite Pimiento Cheese, from Southern Living Magazine

Be careful out there. You may reach me directly at annettespence@holston.org.

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