The Colonial Roots Of Pimiento Cheese : The Salt A Filipina American discovers her favorite cheesy snack has a bloody origin story.
NPR logo The Colonial Roots Of Pimiento Cheese

The Colonial Roots Of Pimiento Cheese

A Filipina American discovers her favorite cheesy snack has a bloody origin story.
Trinidad Escobar
When I was a kid, my Tito Maro would make us cheese pimiento, a popular sandwich in the Philippines.
Trinidad Escobar
As I grew older, I made pimiento cheese for friends, roommates and boyfriends. It was a way for me to share my culture with them.
Trinidad Escobar
The Philippines was a Spanish colony for 400 years. After the Spanish-American war of 1898, the USA took possession of the colony.
Trinidad Escobar
The USA didn't grant the Philippines independence for 44 years.
Trinidad Escobar
With the American occupation came American imports of canned foods.
Trinidad Escobar
My mom says that my grandma would make it for special occasions in the '50s. She'd stuff it into pinwheel sandwiches for fancy cocktail parties.
Trinidad Escobar
Over the generations, cheese pimiento became a regular part of the Filipino lunch tradition, enjoyed by the masses.
Trinidad Escobar
But Gem Daus, a Filipino American professor of Asian American studies at the University of Maryland, reminds me that many long-standing Filipino foods aren't really Filipino.
Trinidad Escobar
But when each dish arrived — whether by force or by trade — Filipinos added their own little spin. They cook it to their tastes, adapting and improvising until it's far from its foreign origins.
Trinidad Escobar
And pimiento cheese became cheese pimiento. There's not really much difference in the recipe — it's still cheese and mayo on bread — but we did remix the name.
Trinidad Escobar
Is my beloved pimiento cheese still good? I made a toasted sandwich recently — the same way Tito Maro made it.
Trinidad Escobar

This illustrated story originally appeared in The Nib.