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The Colonial Roots Of Pimiento Cheese

A Filipina American discovers her favorite cheesy snack has a bloody origin story.
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When I was a kid, my Tito Maro would make us cheese pimiento, a popular sandwich in the Philippines.
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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.
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The Philippines was a Spanish colony for 400 years. After the Spanish-American war of 1898, the USA took possession of the colony.
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The USA didn't grant the Philippines independence for 44 years.
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With the American occupation came American imports of canned foods.
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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.
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Over the generations, cheese pimiento became a regular part of the Filipino lunch tradition, enjoyed by the masses.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Is my beloved pimiento cheese still good? I made a toasted sandwich recently — the same way Tito Maro made it.
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This illustrated story originally appeared in The Nib.

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