I recently had occasion to sample Virginia-made pimento cheese. “This isn’t bad,” I commented to a friend who was also attending the event, “but it’s not as good as what we get at the little store on the Square.”

“You mean to say that you buy your pimento cheese?” she said, shocked. “I always make my own, with Mother’s recipe.” I hung my head in shame and vowed to myself that I was going to make my own pimento cheese from that day forward.

Pimento cheese is distinctly Southern, and folks from other parts of the country have rarely heard of it, much less enjoyed its many attributes. When I lived up North I longed for good old Southern foods. I missed my grits and banana pudding, black-eyed peas, collards, fried chicken and country ham and my grandmother’s wonderful moist corn bread cooked in a black iron skilled and cut into wedges, pie-style.

And I sorely missed pimento cheese.

“Page, dear,” my mother-in-law informed me with a big smile. “Guess what I found in the store for you? Pimento cheese.” She proudly presented me with a small jar of the Yankee version, which I sampled and thanked her kindly. I did not tell her that it was awful, not at all the tasty, sharp-flavored, lumpy stuff for which I pined.

Although pimento cheese reigns in sandwiches throughout the Southland, it was first produced for marketing in New York State in the early 1900s. Farmers had learned to make cream cheese, pimentos imported from Spain became popular, and the two met in cheese manufacturing companies, touted as something new and delicious and selling for about 20 cents a jar.

Southern farmers soon began to grow pimento peppers, with Georgia becoming a leader in production. With the price much less that of the imported peppers and the fact that hoop cheese was way less expensive than Neufchatel, Southern housewives everywhere began grinding out their own versions of pimento cheese.

It was primarily used in sandwiches made with cheap store-bought white bread and taken to work or school in paper bags. Factory workers in textile mills and furniture plants relied on pimento cheese, along with Vienna sausages, sardines and crackers, for their lunches.

But you know and I know that even if, technically, the first manufactured pimento cheese was produced way up yonder in Yankee land, our grannies and aunts and mamas put the “soul” into it. Plus, every little grocery store in town had its own version of it, as well as chicken salad.

Most folks made it with hoop cheese or rat cheese or in my grandmother’s case, Ched-O-Bit, the A&P brand of processed cheese food similar to Velveeta, but less expensive (my granny was a notorious penny-pincher). They grated it, mashed it with a fork or ground it in an old-fashioned meat grinder, the kind that screwed on to a tabletop. A good dollop of mayonnaise, chopped pimentos and a bit of salt and pepper and voila — Southern caviar.

It appeared stuffed in celery with a toasted pecan on top on every occasion: Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, ladies’ luncheons, tea parties, even children’s birthday bashes. Cut the crusts off the sandwich and you have a perfectly fine hors d’oeuvre.

In recent times pimento cheese has become much more chi-chi, showing up atop baked potatoes, steamed broccoli and asparagus, on hamburgers and hot dogs, even in sushi and as a party dip. And the Masters golf tournament just wouldn’t be the same without pimento cheese sandwiches, wrapped in green paper, of course.

I’m on my way out to the kitchen to make good on my pimento cheese promise to myself, Southern kitchen maven that I profess to be. And if it isn’t as good as I hope, not to worry. There’s always the little store on the Square.

Page H. Onorato is a retired teacher.