Passion for Pimento Cheese


Elon, NC - July 15, 2015 - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will come together at a common table when it examines food and food studies as its 2015-2017 university-wide academic theme. “Food for All: Local and Global Perspectives,” which builds on Carolina’s 2012-2015 “Water in Our World” focus on global water issues, will challenge all areas of the University to examine wide-ranging topics from food cultures and nutrition, to food security, world hunger, agricultural economics, resource management, sustainable development, climate change and international trade. Photography by Steve Exum. [#Beginning of Shooting Data Section] Nikon D800 2015/07/15 13:17:52.20 Time Zone and Date: UTC-5, DST:ON Compressed RAW (12-bit) Image Size: L (7360 x 4912), FX Lens: 24-70mm f/2.8G Artist: STEVE EXUM                           Copyright: EXUMPHOTO.COM                                          Focal Length: 58mm Exposure Mode: Manual Metering: Matrix Shutter Speed: 1/160s Aperture: f/18 Exposure Comp.: 0EV Exposure Tuning: ISO Sensitivity: ISO 320 Optimize Image: White Balance: Direct sunlight, 0, 0 Focus Mode: AF-S AF-Area Mode: Single AF Fine Tune: OFF VR: Long Exposure NR: OFF High ISO NR: ON (Normal) Color Mode: Color Space: sRGB Tone Comp.: Hue Adjustment: Saturation: Sharpening: Active D-Lighting: Normal Vignette Control: Normal Auto Distortion Control: ON Picture Control: [SD] STANDARD Base: [SD] STANDARD Quick Adjust: 0 Sharpening: 3 Contrast: 0 Brightness: 0 Saturation: 0 Hue: 0 Filter Effects: Toning: Map Datum: Dust Removal: 2015/02/20 14:28:02 [#End of Shooting Data Section]

Our region produces and consumes the most pimento cheese in the world. But the spread isn’t Southern by birth — it is likely a product of Spain, where the red pimiento pepper has its roots. Pimento cheese first appeared in the states around 1910 and was considered a delicacy due to the imported pepper. Soon after, farmers in Georgia began growing the crop. As it spread across the South, the price of pimientos dropped significantly, making pimento cheese more affordable and a staple among workers in the Piedmont’s abundant textile industry. Many companies, including Ruth’s Salads of Charlotte, Made-Rite of Greensboro and Star Food of Burlington, grew their businesses in the 1950s by selling sandwiches to local factories. Though still served at formal tables, it was this connection to the working class that permanently situated pimento cheese in the South.

pcheese card front_Page_1Text by Emily Wallace (M.A. folklore ’10), whose master’s thesis is titled “It Was There for Work: Pimento Cheese in the Carolina Piedmont.” Today she is deputy editor of Southern Cultures journal and communications director for UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South. And yes, she always keeps a tub of pimento cheese in her refrigerator. Check out the piece she wrote for the INDY Week.

Read a Q&A about Lumbee foodways and the collard sandwich.