Susan Sparks: The Weaponization of Pimento Cheese

Thanks for your patience during the past several weeks as I took a bit of time off to recharge. I hope you are finding a few moments to do the same this summer.

Given the heaviness of our world, I wanted to bring back this column from two years ago - one of my all-time favorites. Hopefully, it will bring you a smile. :)

The Weaponization of Pimento Cheese

There’s really no delicate way to put this. Last week, the TSA stole my pimento cheese. They could have taken my laptop, my wallet, or even my People magazine with photos from the royal wedding. I wouldn’t have cared. But my pimento cheese? It was an unspeakable loss.

I was heading home to New York City from a lovely visit with family in North Carolina. As always, I was bringing back a Southern treat to remind me of my roots and make me less lonely when I land. On this trip, I packed a small container of my all-time favorite food: Palmetto pimento cheese.

Now for those of you who are thinking, “It’s a sandwich spread, Susan, get over it,” let me clarify. You can’t buy this stuff in NYC. Oh sure, New Yorkers claim they have it. But the stuff they sell is, well, fake. It’s an odd, tasteless, Yankee version which I refuse to consume. The bottom line is that for me, a Southerner living in NYC, authentic pimento cheese is a priceless commodity.

Back to the theft. Early last Thursday, I entered the Raleigh TSA pre-check, placed my bag with the pimento cheese on the conveyor belt, and walked through the metal detector. When I got on the other side, I noticed the X-ray attendant squinting at the screen, her lips pursed.

“I need a bag search!” she yelled, plopping my sack into a separate bin.

My mind raced through the litany of possibly “dangerous things” in my bag:

Tweezers? No.

Loofah? It’s scratchy, so maybe . . .

Hairbrush? It has firm bristles, so you could probably bruise someone’s scalp with it.

Just as I was about cough up the brush, I watched in horror as the TSA agent lifted out the plastic bag with my container of pimento cheese.

“You can’t take this on the plane,” he said, heading to the trash.

“It’s pimento cheese!” I wailed. “And really good pimento cheese! Palmetto! You can’t buy that up north!”

“It’s a liquid and not allowed,” he snapped.

I watched as my beloved was summarily tossed in the trash. Wonderful, deliciousness wasted—struck down in its prime. And for what? Protection of the free world? An effort to curb the weaponization of pimento cheese?

I walked over to the trashcan and peered in, like a mourner looking into a grave. All of a sudden, I flashed to the scripture from my last sermon: “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long . . . For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). Momentarily comforted, I said a short prayer over the pimento cheese, then turned and walked away.

On the flight back, I couldn’t stop thinking about the loss of my beloved. It was so unfair—so unjust. I pulled a newspaper out of my bag to get my mind off the tragedy, and the headlines quickly put my suffering in perspective. People all over the world were facing unfair, unjust losses. Some had lost their savings, health or job. Others had a dire loss of food or clean water. Still others had experienced loss of life, many through bombs and bullets.

I put the paper down and stared out the window at the tiny dot of Philadelphia passing below. Maybe I should lighten up on the TSA. This certainly wasn’t a life-threatening loss. In fact, their actions, crazy as they were, were meant to prevent loss. They were just doing their job as best they could.

I was within a hair’s breadth of forgiveness when the horrible reality came rushing back: I was doomed to eat tasteless Yankee pimento cheese until my next visit home. I nestled back in my Delta aisle seat, stewing on my anger until a new, more sinister question popped into my mind:

What were those TSA agents in Raleigh having for lunch?


Reposted from Susan's newsletter, Shiny Side Up! To connect with Susan, click here.