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While Southern fried chicken is the most frequently mentioned food in Night Train to Nashville, my grandmother Christine never used a recipe. And even if she had, the chicken would not turn out as hers did because she used a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Instead, I’d like to share her recipe for pimento cheese. My grandmother didn’t measure the ingredients for it either, but my mother watched and made notes.
In the book’s epilogue, I quote a letter from Jimmy Ward to my grandfather, Gab. Jimmy also wrote a letter to Christine, which included these lines: “Mary Jane and I were remembering all the fun we had with you and Blackie. Christmas parties, water skiing picnics on top of the narrows of the Harpeth [River]…lugging all that food up there… the pimento cheese sandwiches.”
I too have fond memories of my grandmother’s pimento cheese sandwiches. During the hot, humid summers spent at her home on Old Hickory Lake, beginning at age 5, I ate the same thing for lunch every day: pimento cheese on white bread with corn chips and a four-ounce glass of ice cold beer! Summertime perfection.
Yes, she served me 3/2 beer, a brew with reduced alcohol content. Christine’s parents were Swiss/German and prior to prohibition, her father owned a popular tavern in downtown Nashville. She grew up drinking beer as a child and was of the opinion that children who learn to drink early learn to drink responsibly. I don’t know if that’s true, but I have been called a “perfect drinker” because I drink only white wine watered down with club soda and lots of ice. It's a refreshing beverage with an alcohol content similar to the 3/2 beer I drank as a child.
To this day, I can’t think of a more delicious lunch on a hot, humid summer day than a creamy pimento cheese sandwich and a refreshing low alcohol content ice cold beverage.