The Pimento Cheese Sandwich at Augusta National is golf’s greatest tradition

The Pimento Cheese Sandwich at Augusta National is golf’s greatest tradition

Acquired TastesAcquired TastesIn Acquired Tastes, The Takeout explores the food and drinks we can’t live without.

The pimento cheese sandwich at the famed Augusta National golf course is from another era. For starters, it costs $1.50, like you traveled back in time to kill Hitler but stopped to get a sandwich first. It is wisely sealed in a green wrapper, a precaution so that in case the wrapper blows away it’ll blend in with the course’s grass. Unfortunately, that means the wrapper also looks tragically similar to those little green waste bags one uses to clean up after their pets (PSA: please pick up your dog’s shit). Some people who attend the annual Masters Tournament crave the pimento cheese sandwich; others reject its unusual texture. Chef Thomas Keller waxes nostalgic about it, saying that the beauty of this simple creation lies in the Wonder Bread. When you take a bite of the soft, sugary bread combined with the creamy pimento cheese, it sticks to the roof of your mouth much like a PB&J. It’s an eccentric, childlike, rambunctious little sandwich that’s a conversation starter for any Masters attendee.

Me? I think the sandwich was sent from Hell. Don’t get me wrong, I love pimento cheese, but there’s something unnerving about the lack of textural variation between the Wonder Bread and pimento cheese spread. I’m okay with peanut butter sticking to the roof of my mouth—a decidedly universal sensation of American childhood—but mayonnaise, sharp cheddar, and sweet peppers getting stuck up there? Disturbing. The whole thing would benefit from toasted bread or a loaf of something crusty. For Christ’s sake, create some separation between the sandwich and its filling.

Now, I know the last thing you want is some jagoff telling you how to eat a pimento cheese sandwich, but I truly can’t even imagine the feeling of dragging a butter knife loaded with thick pimento cheese across the spongy, fragile surface of a slice of untoasted Wonder Bread. Unless you’ve got no teeth, or you’re chasing some weird “authentic golf course experience,” toast the damn bread.

I digress to the pimento cheese. The recipe itself for the spread is wildly contested, as many enigmatic culinary traditions are. There are a list of ingredients on the back of the green sandwich wrapper (see below), but apparently those aren’t even the actual ingredients. The history behind the secret recipe is murky at best: Aiken, South Carolina man Nick Rangos made the pimento cheese at Augusta National for 45 years. Rangos is, without a doubt, the reason people fell in love with the sandwich. Sometime in the early 2000s, the club let Nick go and picked up the contract of a local restaurant, Wife Saver, to make the sandwich. Feeling spurned by this decision, the old man never actually revealed his recipe. In fact, he took it with him to the grave.

Augusta National’s famed pimento cheese sandwich, complete with list of ingredients
Augusta National’s famed pimento cheese sandwich, complete with list of ingredients
Photo: Jamie Squire (Getty Images)

Wife Saver claims to have figured out the recipe through trial and error, but in 2013, it was also let go by the club. That year, people complained that the sandwich just didn’t taste the same. Word to the wise: Stop firing people when they’re clearly good at their jobs.

So then, what is the actual recipe? Well, Tea-Time at The Masters: A Collection of Recipes, published in 1977, offers a recipe for the sandwich that could be the real deal. It would certainly overlap with Nick’s time at the club. Here it is below (hat-tip to the Miss Janice blog for reprinting).

Recipe for Four-Cheese Pimiento Sandwiches

Source: Tea Time at the Masters, Par Three

  • 3 cups (12 ounces) shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded yellow sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces crumbled bleu cheese
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 (4-ounce) jar sliced pimientos, drained
  • 1 cup light mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • White sandwich bread

Combine the white cheddar cheese, yellow cheddar cheese, bleu cheese, parmesan cheese, pimientos, mayonnaise and Dijon mustard in a food processor and process until smooth. Remove to a bowl. Cover and chill. Spread on white bread to make sandwiches.

I’m inclined to believe this recipe at face value, as I have worked in country club kitchens and know just how much these motherfuckers love blue cheese. I mean, it goes in everything. Ditto for Parmesan. When I think of country club cooking, I think, “What would uncultured, wealthy white people lose their shit over?” They love blue cheese on steaks and in salads. Parmesan cheese goes in potatoes, dressings, and on every vegetable. Moreover, cheese spreads are synonymous with country clubs. I’m not from the South, so I’m more of a Youngstown Cheese guy: Wisconsin cheddar, port wine, and horseradish. I’ve always thought of Youngstown Cheese Spread as the North’s version of pimento cheese.

The 1977 recipe is perhaps just bland enough to be legit (country clubs’ broadly continental food is never exactly a symphony of flavor). Maybe Augusta National has tweaked its formula over the years and no longer resembles the alleged Masters recipe above. Luckily, I haven’t yet descended so far into madness that I really care one way or the other.

Below is my recipe. I’ve borrowed some techniques from watching videos of the experts. I see many people using cream cheese and cottage cheese in their pimento spreads, but I just can’t get on board. Cream cheese feels like a giant cop-out, because it flattens the flavor, and what it adds in texture can be achieved by chilling the classic mixture properly. Grated onion goes a long way in the spread; it brings an immense amount of needed flavor. Also, skip the food processor and just use a box grater to shred the cheese so that it comes out in thick strands. You want this spread to be a little bit chunky. Thomas Keller also mentions adding a little kick to the sandwich, so a few dashes of your preferred hot sauce and some smoked paprika will help it out.

TLDR: you can also make the sandwich like Mike Ehrmantraut.


Pimento Cheese Sandwich Recipe

  • 1 loaf Wonder Bread
  • 3/4 cup Duke’s Mayonnaise
  • 2 cups extra sharp cheddar, grated with a box grater
  • 1 (5-oz.) can pimento peppers, patted dry and diced
  • 6 oz. blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 Tbsp. raw yellow onion, grated
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. hot sauce
  • smoked paprika, salt, and pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a big bowl and mix with a rubber spatula. Let it chill in the fridge for a few hours, preferably overnight, to achieve a thick, spreadable texture. Spread on toasted Wonder Bread, or untoasted if you prefer the emotional pain.

Danny is a comedian and writer living in Los Angeles. Instagram @palumbros

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DISCUSSION

noisetanknick
NoiseTankNick

My parents love golf and make me sign up for the Master’s ticket lottery every year (The lotto system is very strict; there’s SSN verification involved.) You can only request 2 tickets for actual tournament dates, but 4 for the practice days earlier in the week. I’ve told them that if I manage to get practice date tickets, I’m going with them just so I can eat the damn sandwiches. Dad has attended once in the past, and confirms that the sandwiches live up to the hype.

Anyhow, onto the recipes: Based on the ingredients label photo of the actual Master’s sandwich above, there’s sugar in the mayo, so they are NOT using Duke’s (one of the few Southern staples where added sugar isn’t part of the secret.) That’s shocking to me, significantly more shocking than the use of an American/Swiss blend.

And for your recipe, everything checks out except dear God almighty what the absolute Hell is bleu cheese doing ANYWHERE in the vicinity of pimento cheese, you Yankee madman.