Growing up in southern Oklahoma, I never knew there was any other pimento cheese spread but Price's. It came in a heavy foil box, all ready to go on slices of white bread that were so fresh they would give way under the weight of that thick, cool spread. My mother-in-law, the late Gladys Jones, grew up near Johnson City, Tenn., where many of those little jars of pimientos are processed. She was quick to point out the particulars of pimento cheese to me after I married her only son. She explained, "Honey, I neevah use bought puhmenna spread!” That was the start of my understanding about how particular Southern folks are about their pimento cheese. As far as my mother-in-law was concerned, her version, made with extra-sharp cheddar cheese, was the only way to make it. In 2003, members of the Southern Foodways Alliance were invited to submit writings that included our recollections of pimento cheese. We were also invited to include our recipes for a Pimento Cheese Invitational, sponsored by the Southeast Dairy Association. Southern Foodways Alliance is an organization born out of the workings of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. The focus of the organization is the food of the South and how it came to be and is today. The history of pimento cheese spread started with the sweet heart-shaped pimiento pepper. At maturity, the pepper is bright red. I have grown these peppers in my Oklahoma garden with good results, but Georgia leads the nation in pimiento pepper production. The pepper itself is thought to have originated in Spain. Southerners have canned this prolific-producing pepper for generations. It is also the pepper that is used to make paprika. Kendra Meyers, an Atlanta playwright who pursued the history of pimento cheese spread for the Southern Foodways Alliance, said, "The moment of harmonious convergence of the humble pimiento and sharp cheese remains a mystery, but we do know that already prepared spread was featured in Southern groceries as early as 1915. Pomona Products Co. founder George Reigel of Griffin, Ga., began canning Sunshine Pimentos in 1916, making it even easier for home cooks to produce their own versions of it.” We also know that pimento cheese spread has been practically a staple on Southern tables through the Great Depression years and into this century. It was economical and could be kept in the refrigerator to spread on bread for a quick lunch, served with the usual iced tea. At parties and other gatherings, pimento cheese spread made its appearance with Ritz Crackers and celery sticks. Pimento cheese sandwiches have comforted grieving families and friends as well as starring in the role of most popular sandwich consumed at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga., wrapped in green wax paper, of course. The 2003 Southern Foodways Alliance conference concluded with the distribution of a 312-page book of shared pimento cheese memorabilia. Sprinkled throughout the memories and recipes were more techniques and combinations of three basic ingredients — cheese, mayonnaise and pimientos — than anyone believed possible. The recollections and recipes included sandwiches that were spread, spiraled and sliced, and even breaded and deep-fried. Some notable Southern restaurants have even been known to top their filet mignon with pimento cheese. The kinds of cheese varied, sometimes including cream cheese or Velveeta. How the cheese was grated, along with the kind of mayonnaise used, were subjects of debate. Renditions included garlic, hot sauce, relish and horseradish. I decided the judging of such an assembly of pimento cheese variations would be subjective, as it is difficult for anyone to forget the pimento cheese spread they grew up enjoying. Perhaps one was stirred too much or not enough by comparison to others. The specific way those same basic ingredients were brought together into what some call the "pate of the South” also varied. You can easily judge for yourself how practical this Southern favorite is. Stir up a bowl of the pimento cheese for your lunch. I use Hellman's Light mayonnaise, and my husband still thinks it is exactly like his mother made. "Pimenna” cheese spread, as our family likes to call it, is quick to make with a package of pregrated sharp cheddar. Be sure you get the cheese that looks like it was grated on the big holes of the grater. This spread might keep for a week in your refrigerator, but it will probably be gone before that. Most pimento cheese spread makers do agree on one thing: It gets better by the day!