It’s a wise practice to stock your pantry with a little something to nibble on. Yes, you could buy chips. But really, why not go classy with cheese straws and benne wafers?
Benne Wafers from Charleston’s Own
Benne wafers are a classic Southern infatuation. They are crisp one-inch cookies, rich with the flavor of caramelized sugar and nutty benne (pronounced “benny”) seeds, and just a little bit savory well. In other words, they’ll hit every one of your cravings. Depending on what you read and who you talk to, benne seeds were imported to the States from West Africa or Jamaica in the 1700s and were grown primarily for the rich oil they produce. That high oil content is one of the reasons these cookies are so flavorful. These traditional Charleston cookies are widely available in that city. For those of us far from Charleston, these wafers from Charleston’s Own are delicious and worth seeking out.
$6.75 per 5.5-ounce package. Available online at charlestonspecialtyfoods.com/products/charlestons-own-benne-wafer-5-5-oz-container.
Pimento Cheese Straws from Mama Geraldine’s
Cathy Cunningham grew up in Newnan, Georgia, daughter of Turner Holmes Cunningham and his wife Geraldine. Twenty-five years ago, the daughter took the mother’s cheese straw recipe and turned it into the foundation of a successful business that now sells its cheese straws on Amazon and in grocery stores throughout the Southeast and Southwest. The bakers at Mama Geraldine’s turn out Traditional, Chipotle and Parmesan Rosemary cheese straws. We decide to try their Pimento Cheese Straws, finalist in the 2019 Flavor of Georgia competition. There’s just enough pepper flavor (from red bell pepper, pimentos and cayenne) to compliment the cheddar that is the primary ingredient. The result is a tiny bit of heat and lots of cheese flavor. We think it’s a great way to combine two Southern favorites into one savory baked treat.
$3.99-4.99 per 4.5-ounce package. Available in the deli-bakery area of Kroger, Food Lion, Ingles, Winn-Dixie, Bi-Lo and IGA and online at Amazon and mamageraldines.com/.
Classic and Spicy Cheese Straws from home.made
Chef Mimi Maumus of home.made in Athens serves her cheese straws as a lagniappe with your lunch when you dine at her restaurant on Baxter Street in Athens. The rest of us can purchase them online. Maumus makes four kinds of cheese straws - original and spicy made from wheat flour, and original and spicy made from corn flour for those who are eating gluten-free. We think of these more as oval cheese wafers, each a generous mouthful of cheddar-filled, buttery flavor. The texture is sandy, and honestly, we couldn’t tell the difference between the gluten and gluten-free versions. Like all good cheese straws, these are based on a generations-old recipe. And the corn flour? They source it from DaySpring Farms in Danielsville, just northeast of Athens.
$10 per 6-ounce bag. Available online at homemadeathens.com/.
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