A graduation party. There must have been a hundred people there, all dressed in nice clothes.
In the entryway was a poster-sized picture of the kid who graduated. He’s eighteen, tall, handsome. He looked like Superman, minus the “S.”
People were mingling, there were refreshments, music, and a long buffet. And I was on a mission for pimento cheese.
I will do almost anything for pimento cheese. Not plain pimento cheese, but the kind made by a professional. My aunt, for instance, makes a spectacular variety. And my wife’s pimento cheese is good enough to make Billy Graham slap his own mama.
My mother is not going to like that joke.
Anyway, I don’t care for the orange slop found in supermarket coolers. That stuff looks like stink bait. I’m talking about the real thing, made by a lady who knows her way around a kitchen.
A woman who swats your hand when you poke your finger into her food. A woman who shakes a wooden spoon at you and says, “Good things come to those who wait, young man.”
These sweet women have been shredding blocks of cheddar the old-fashioned way since the early days and have developed arms bigger than Sylvester Stallone.
My mother used to have a cheese grater we called the “knuckle buster.” It was shaped like a cowbell, with rusted edges. You had to stay current on your tetanus shots to use it.
If you were disobedient, my mother sentenced you to grate cheese until your knuckles were unidentifiable. If you were especially bad, you had to grate the onions for tartar sauce.
I don’t know if you’ve ever grated an onion. Many good men have lost fingers grating onions on my mother’s grater.
But the fare was worth it. And years later, I would discover that this brand of food is hard to locate after you leave home.
When you can’t find good pimento cheese, you can always try the Methodist potluck. But you’ll have to beat Uncle James to it. He is notorious for licking the dish clean.
Or, you might find decent pimento cheese at a Junior League meeting. Long ago, I snuck into my wife’s meeting. When all the women were busy practicing their secret thumb-wrestling handshakes, I ate an entire pint of cheese.
I do not recommend cheating Junior Leaguers out of their rightful pimento cheese. These women carry pepper spray in their handbags and take CrossFit classes.
Once, I attended a Baptist function in Birmingham. I zeroed in on the pimento cheese while the pastor was still asking the blessing. I took one bite and almost gagged.
“I believe this cheese has gone bad, Preacher,” I said.
“No, it’s store bought cheese. Sister Linda puts grocery-store cheese into a Tupperware container to pass it off as homemade.”
Which is the only sin in the Bible that is unforgivable.
You can also find pimento cheese at graduation parties. Like the one I am telling you about. When I saw the homemade pimento cheese on the buffet line, it took me back in time.
I had memories of childhood. I remembered a world of church ladies, summer socials, baseball on the back lawn, guitar music on the front swing, and covered dishes.
I fixed my plate and was greeted by an old woman behind the buffet. She looked at my mountain of cheese and gasped.
“It’s a sin to be greedy,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Did you make this cheese?”
“Yes, and it’s for everyone, not just you. Now put some back.”
She limited me to only one tablespoon. And this is a shame. Because eating only one tablespoon of pimento cheese is like driving to Disney World to take a nap in your car.
Still, the party was nice. I shook hands with the graduate. The kid has everything going for him. He has the world by the tail, and I’m proud of him.
I have never had the world by the tail. To me, the world has always been more like a mechanical bull ride at the VFW.
I left the party, I loosened my necktie. I was thinking about the way my mother used to let me lick spoons when she was baking. And about pimentos, in those little jars. And the summer days when my mother made fresh bread.
There are few pleasures that can outdo homemade bread and butter.
Before I crawled into my truck, I heard someone yelling my name. It was the woman from the buffet. She was following me, carrying a Tupperware container.
She handed it to me.
“I fixed some to take with you,” she said. “We had plenty leftover.”
After all these years, my mother was right. Good things really do come to those who wait.
No. Billy Graham would’ve never slapped his mama.