When I was a kid, my mom would make me Velveeta and mayonnaise sandwiches on Wonder Bread. I actually thought that Velveeta was a type of cheese, like Swiss or Muenster. My mother only bought two types of cheese: the processed cheese squares in the individual plastic wrappers and logs of Velveeta. Unfortunately, my mother was not from the South so she did not understand the real virtues of this glorious processed cheese food. She only knew to slice it and put it on squishy highly processed white bread. And she certainly didn’t know about Duke’s mayonnaise. Kraft was the brand of choice in Illinois.
So fast forward to about 15 years later when I got to Charlotte, N.C., my first outpost in the South. Velveeta was an entirely different animal past the Mason Dixon Line. It was melted with Ro-Tel tomatoes to make a sublime dip. It was cut into cubes and folded into macaroni and cheese. And, in its highest calling, it was the gooey foundation of that perennial summer favorite, Squash Casserole.
Every Southern cook, it seems, has a different and equally delicious recipe for Squash Casserole. Like zucchini, you’d better have a lot of good recipes for summer squash because it spreads like wild fire down here.
What follows is a recipe passed along to me by Terrell Jones, one of the great gentlemen of Georgia, who has taught me more about Southern foodways than any other person. It came to him by way of Norris and Sandy Brewer and was his mother’s recipe. Terrell says he’s eaten a lot of Squash Casserole in his time and this is the best he ever had. And you can take that to the bank.
1 poound summer squash, sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup onion, diced
1 stick butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup grated Velveeta
1 small jar pimentos
Salt and pepper to taste
Cracker crumbs, additional grated cheese and additional butter (melted) for the top.
Cook squash and onion in boiling water until tender. Drain and mash together. Add butter, sugar, cheese, pimento, salt and pepper.The mixture should have the consistency of pudding. Put it in a 2-quart casserole. top with cracker crumbs, and additional cheese and butter.
Bake at 350 degrees until set, about 30 minutes.
(By the way, Terrell leaves the sugar out but I think it adds sweetness to the squash.)