It's been over 30 years since my friend Deidre ran her sandwich shop and ice cream parlor. I couldn't say how many times I ate lunch there or how many birthday parties I attended there with Kate and Adam and their friends. Clifton's was a gathering place, a sort of alcohol-absent Cheers, and I knew when I walked in that I would get more than a meal.
There are so many good memories associated with Clifton's and all I have to do to be transported back is to buy a loaf of raisin bread and make some pimento cheese. I'd never had that particular sandwich combination until Deidre put it on her menu and the moment I tried it I wondered why someone hadn't offered it to me before. It became my "regular."
Years later, long after Clifton's was closed and I was left with nowhere to hang out between court appearances and client appointments, I sat at the counter of my friend Penny's kitchen and watched her make pimento cheese. It's not a hard dish to make, of course, but I'd never considered the idea that pimento cheese had ingredients and that those ingredients had to be mixed.
There was something so soothing about watching Penny's hands move in circles with the spoon as the cheese and mayonnaise and pimentos slowly came together. At the last minute, she doused the mixture with a healthy splash of Texas Pete. I ate that pimento cheese, not on raisin bread, but with Frito's Scoops.
I made myself a pimento cheese sandwich today. On raisin bread. And I trimmed it with Frito's Scoops. And in that strange way that food comforts and encourages, that sandwich and those corn chips eased some of the unsettledness that the pandemic has made a constant part of our days. That plate of food gave me perspective and helped me to imagine the time when we can break bread -- raisin or otherwise -- with each other again. I can hardly wait.