Among the many wonderful objects in the Smithsonian's new exhibit on food in the second half of the 20th century is a full-page ad for spray pimento cheese spread. According to pimento cheese scholar Emily Wallace, who wrote her master's thesis on PC in Southern culture, pimento cheese in a can wasn't the only attempt to modernize the humble spread for supermarket shoppers: Costco once sold pimento cheese sushi.
Although it's unclear whether Costco now wants to distance itself from the experiment, a spokesperson didn't return messages requesting more information about the pimento cheese roll and its fate. Nor did a Nabisco representative respond to an e-mail asking about the 1966 ad included in the Smithsonian show.
The decline of sprayable pimento cheese would likely please the purists who maintain using processed cheese in a recipe is a greater sin than resorting to Miracle Whip. But Wallace thinks the world may have been hasty in rejecting Snack Mate Pimiento Cheese Spread.
"Pimento cheese has seen its share of ridiculous iterations," says Wallace, who's yet to encounter the can she's seen in vintage advertisements. "Of all of those, the Easy Cheese variety actually makes the most sense to me in theory. Pimento cheese has long been hailed as a food that's cheap and convenient, and something you can eat on the go."
Nabsico in 1965 introduced Snack Mate (later renamed Easy Cheese), hoping to appeal to hostesses who didn't have time to grate cheese before pouring cocktails. Pimento was one of four original flavors; Within a year, Cheddar Blue Cheese and Shrimp Cocktail were added to the line-up.
Unlike those highfalutin spreads, pimento cheese has managed to thrive beyond the aerosol can.
"It doesn't really need a gimmick such as squeezing through a tube," Wallace says. "The spread is more than fine on its own."