THE BALLAD OF THE ALAMO–LEARNING HISTORY THROUGH SONGS #2 BY CHERYL PIERSON

Hi everyone! In the first post of this series (The Battle of New Orleans—Learning History Through Songs #1) I mentioned that these ballad-type tunes were popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s, with Marty Robbins and Johnny Horton being two of the best-known singers of this type of songs.

The Battle of New Orleans was penned by an Arkansas school principal, Jimmy Driftwood, who wrote it in the hopes of making learning more fun for his students.

But what about The Ballad of the Alamo?

This theme was written by Ukrainian-born composer Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin (May 10, 1894 – November 11, 1979). He was a Hollywood film score composer and conductor. According to “Lyrics”, he is considered “one of the giants of Hollywood movie music.” Though he was musically trained in Russia, he is best known for his westerns, a genre “where his expansive, muscular style had its greatest impact.” Tiomkin received 22 Academy Award nominations and won four Oscars, also according to “Lyrics”.

Dimitri Tiomkin

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38069784

I can see why! He also wrote The Green Leaves of Summer (also from the John Wayne BATJAC production of THE ALAMO, as well as the theme for the movie Do Not Forsake Me from the movie HIGH NOON, and among other favorites, the theme song for Rawhide!

Tiomkin had a way of putting sweeping musical scores together with some “killer” lyrics—and with Marty Robbins recording The Ballad of the Alamo, it was a sure-fire winner! Though this song has been covered by other artists, and inspired other songs about the Alamo as well, the original Marty Robbins version is incomparable. Recorded in 1960, it became a “crossover” hit, spending 13 weeks on the pop charts and ranked high at #34, at one point.

THE BALLAD OF THE ALAMO–Marty Robbins

Imagine, telling the entire story of the Alamo in one story-song. With its haunting melody combined with unforgettable lyrics, this piece stands tall among these songs that teach history through music.

“In the southern part of Texas/Near the town of San Antone/ There’s a fortress all in ruins that the weeds have overgrown…”

The words go on to describe what’s left of the battle scene briefly and the men who were there, as they “…answer to that roll call in the sky.”

Switching gears to what actually happened, the next verse takes us to the action:  “Back in 1836/Houston said to Travis/Get some volunteers and go/Fortify the Alamo…”

The story is told in full—how Santa Anna called for surrender and Travis “answered with a shell—and a rousin’ Rebel yell.” Santa Anna issues his decree: “ ‘Play Degüello,’ he roared/ I will show them no quarter/Every one will be put to the sword!”

I still get chills at this line: “One hundred and eighty-five/Holdin’ back five thousand…” The days are counted off to mark time quickly, and then the sad fact that the “…troops that were comin’/ Never came, never came, never came…”

FALL OF THE ALAMO by Robert J. Onderdonk

By Robert Jenkins Onderdonk – 1. transferred from en.wikipedia, original is at the Texas State Archives2. A Glimpse of History in Modern San Antonio., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7843901

Of course, we know how the story ends. But Tiomkin brings the lyrics full circle when he starts the final verse with the same lines as the first verse, then diverges and lets us see what the cowboy sees, as if we are there with him.

In the southern part of Texas

Near the town of San Antone

Like a statue on a pinto

Rides a cowboy all alone,

And he sees the cattle grazing where a century before

Santa Anna’s guns were blazin’ and the cannons used to roar

And his eyes turn sorta misty,

And his heart begins to glow,

And he takes his hat off slowly…

 

To the men of Alamo.

To the thirteen days of glory

At the siege of Alamo…

 

Here’s the YOUTUBE link if you would like to hear this wonderful retelling of this battle. I can’t even imagine having to perform this in a concert setting as I’m sure Marty Robbins had to do quite often. It’s very difficult to sing, though the logical progression of events make the words easy to remember.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eyu3OIn5A00

http://<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Eyu3OIn5A00″ title=”YouTube video player” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

Here’s a favorite memory. When my son was in elementary school in fourth grade, his teacher called me one night to tell me that when they’d started talking about the battle of the Alamo in class in history, Casey seemed to already know all about it. She said, “Well, what do you know about it, Casey?” Having heard this song about a million and one times in the car, he said, “Back in 1836, Houston said to Travis…Get some volunteers and go fortify the Alamo!” After some questioning, she was amazed that he remembered so much, and it sure brought a smile to my face.

Have you ever been to the Alamo? We went one year, and it’s one of the most moving places I’ve ever been. You can definitely feel the presence of those men who fought and died there.

Katrina Kyle Has a Winner!

Loved your visit, Miss Katrina! Plums sure make some good dessert, jams, and drinks.

Now for the drawing………….

The person to win an autographed copy of Meg’s Motivation is…………

ALICE

Oh my goodness, Alice! I’m so happy for you. Watch for Miss Katrina’s email and check your Spam if you don’t see it.

This week we have Cheryl Pierson, Linda Broday, Shanna Hatfield, Margaret Brownley, and guest Jan Sikes so come and see the posts.

That’s Plum Crazy!

Hello! I’m Katrina Kyle. I’m thrilled to be here for the first time today, and even more ecstatic to give you a glimpse into my debut novel, Meg’s Motivation. Joining with like-minded readers is something special.

But first, I have a confession. When I set out to write a series about three sisters working to save the family plum orchard, I knew very little about plums. As in, practically nothing at all. The deeper I sank my teeth into the flesh of the matter, the more astounded I became. For instance, did you know that plums are the second-most cultivated fruit in the world and are grown on every continent except Antarctica? Plums are a member of the rose family with varieties that ripen in red, purple, yellow, green, and white. The average life span of cultivated plum trees is 10-30+ years.

Okay. That’s all well and good, but I needed to know about plums in California in particular. You see, that is where the Trudy family orchard called Damson Acres is situated in my series. Like many goods in California, plum production began in the mid-1800’s and really took off as the transcontinental railroad was completed. Today, the San Joaquin Valley in central California produces 95% of domestic fresh plums on 20,000 acres – not to say anything of the 50,000 acres of plums intended to dry for prunes. It takes three pounds of fresh plums to get one pound of prunes. That’s plum crazy! (Alright, that’s the last plum pun I’ll throw in here. I’d like to hear you say ‘plum pun’ ten times fast!)

What could a fictional three-generation farming family possibly do with that many plums? Most of the harvested fruit is packed up and shipped to markets around the country. The rest get processed into juice, spreads, syrup, and desserts made and sold in the Damson Acres Café.

As the eldest Trudy sister, Meg discovers that all is not well financially at the orchard. Money is draining from the accounts much faster than they can make it, and rather than worry her mother and sisters, Meg is motivated to turn things around. She quickly learns, however, that she can’t do so on her own. Enter the handsome travel blogger renting a guest bungalow on the property. Meg’s sisters dare her to kiss him while having lunch at the café, and when Meg finds out who he is, she is mortified! She and Morris are thrown together repeatedly, of course, and as they spend more time together, it’s only natural that they fall in love.

Some surprising twists tangle their relationship until neither is certain they’ll attain a happily-ever-after. But if you know me at all, you’ll understand that a happy ending for two people who are totally good together is a MUST.

I’d love to send a paperback copy of Meg’s Motivation to one lucky reader here today. To enter, tell me about a family legacy or tradition you cherish. I can’t wait to hear about your heritage. (And by the way, if you’d like to share a favorite plum recipe in the comments, I’d love to include it in a collection I’m putting together.)

Guideline rules apply – https://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules/ 

So next time you take a bite out of a fresh, juicy plum or open a bag of soft prunes, there’s a 95% chance you’re eating fruit straight off the truck from California. Mm.

Thanks for having me!

Pre-order Meg’s Motivation for only $0.99!
Amazon

Casper, Wyoming…not as big as I thought

Research is tricky.

I once set a book such that it passed through Fort Laramie, Wyoming and the research I did sort of contradicted itself. I wrote it up best I could

Finally, when the book was done and I turned it into my editor, her comment was, “Did you know they moved Fort Laramie three times? And none of those are by Laramie, Wyoming.”

No, I didn’t know that. Yes, I’ll revise.

I once set a book in Fort Union, New Mexico. The only think I needed was…what fort is close to my story because I needed my characters to go to a fort. They stayed a day. No big deal.

So a fort is a fort is a fort right? They entered the stockade gates and searched for the commander.

Except Fort Union had no stockade. In fact, in 1878, the time of my book, it was barely a fort. It was a storage place for supplies. The west was settled for the most part. There were mostly warehouses and very few soldiers. Yes, I’ll revise.

So in my most recent book, Braced for Love–and all my books–I create a fictional town, in this case Bear Claw Pass, Wyoming, and set it near a real town, in this case Casper, Wyoming. It’s the CAPITOL. Sure Wyoming was still a territory, still it stands to reason that the future capitol of a state would have SOMETHING going on. (Mary responding to one of the comments below. This is WRONG. Casper is NOT the capitol of Wyoming. Duh! Thank you for the correction. But it is typical of my error. Even when I KNOW the right thing sometimes the wrong thing makes it into print!)

Nope. 

The key research line I found was about Fort Casper…and this sentence. The town of Casper itself was founded well after the fort had been closed. Instead of this bustling western town I found a quiet little place with the potential for growth because railroad tracks were coming through.

Research will trip you up if you make assumptions and I sometimes do make assumptions and they make it into print, then I just have to hope readers make assumptions along the lines I did and don’t notice, or they are forgiving.

 

So my next series is going to be set somewhere I’ve never written about before, California, near Sacramento and Yosemite, about twenty years after the Gold Rush. You know what? Big cowboy area. I’m having fun researching it and getting off onto side tracks. And learning, learning, learning. Especially I have a woman inventor and as much as we look at that time as being primitive, the industrial revolution was ON. New stuff coming as fast as they old patents aged out. I read once, there were over 100,000 patents taken out just for automobiles.

Guns…the history of guns is the history of America. The fortune that could be made by improving on the design. Every tiny step of progress could make a man a millionaire.

All this industry was built on inventions from before, and others would build on what was new. It’s fascinating reading. The four-stroke cycle engine isn’t invented yet in my books but it is THEORIZED. You get that. A man theorized it would work and it was wild. Explosions, inside a steel box, pushing pistons up and down. It took fifteen years before someone made this theory work.

Anyway, I’m kicking off what I hope is a journey of discovery for my inventor, genius heroine and her very confused cowboy hero who thinks his ranch is the best run place in America (not that he’s ever travelled). She wants to improve it by making explosions inside a metal container? It sounds dangerous and honestly, ridiculous. And she may be smart but it all sounds stupid to him. But he is fond of his pretty, energetic little wife so okay, go on and invent things, just be careful.

Hot and cold running water? Um…turns out that’s nice.

Irrigation on his ranchland? He liked that idea. 

I’m enjoying myself in that series, trying to write my way around the whole Casper, Wyoming debacle in my current Brothers in Arms series, and generally loving exploring history.

 

 

A special treat for Petticoats and Pistols readers.

Hearts Entwined ON SALE NOW. FOR $1.99

Hearts Entwined, a novella collection by Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Melissa Jagears and Mary Connealy.

Click to Buy

Hearts Entwined

 

Four top historical romance novelists team up in this new collection to offer stories of love and romance with a twist of humor.

In Karen Witemeyer’s “The Love Knot,” Claire Nevin gets the surprise of her life awaiting her sister’s arrival by train.

Mary Connealy’s “The Tangled Ties That Bind” offers the story of two former best friends who are reunited while escaping a stampede.

Regina Jennings offers “Bound and Determined,” where a most unusual trip across barren Oklahoma plains is filled with adventure, romance, and . . . camels?

And Melissa Jagears’ “Tied and True” entertains with a tale of two hearts from different social classes who become entwined at a cotton thread factory.

Each tale is a fun blend of history and romance that will delight readers.

Winner’s for Karen Kay’s Give-Away

Good Evening!

We have two (2) winners for the free e-book of IRON WOLF’S BRIDE!

First before I announce the winners, let me thank each and every one of you who came to the blog yesterday.

And the winners are:

Julie Butler &

Caryl Kane

Congratulations to you both.  Now, it’s possible that you might already have this book, and if you do, please email me privately at karenkay(at)startmail(dot)com and let me know what book you might like if IRON WOLF’S BRIDE is one you have already read.

For any of the other bloggers who came to the blog today, if you go to this link, you can get your free copy of the book (this is my page for reviewers).

https://dl.bookfunnel.com/kc5tdbpdk8

Thanks again for coming to the blog.  You are very appreciated.

 

 

Katrina Kyle Will Visit on Friday!

This week we welcome Katrina Kyle on Friday, April 16, 2021!

Have you ever eaten a California plum? Ever hear about them? Miss Katrina is going to tell us about those.

She’s also toting a copy of her new book to give away!

So mark your calendar and come help us welcome her to the Junction.

We’ll have a load of fun talking about plums and sharing recipes.

It’ll be a regular party.

A Bridge for 1000 Hooves

I love learning historical tidbits, and getting to see pieces of history still standing is even better. Last month, my daughter and I met in Waco for a girls getaway weekend. Now that Bethany is working on her PhD at Texas A&M, I don’t get to see her very often, so we started a tradition of getting together for a weekend each semester.

She loves history as much as I do, so we skipped the shopping at the Magnolia Silos in favor of touring historic homes and walking along the Brazos River to visit the Waco Suspension Bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge was closed to the public for refurbishment, but we still managed to get a few pictures.

What is really fascinating about this bridge, however, is it’s history. It wasn’t built for man, you see. It was built for cattle.

In the mid-1800s, cattle was king in Texas, and cattle drives along the Chisholm Trail were essential for bringing those cattle to market. However, crossing the Brazos River was a difficult endeavor. No bridges spanned this river across central Texas, so trail bosses had to find shallow places to cross. With the unpredictability of Texas weather, those places became moving targets. One of the most stable locations to ford was Waco.

At the Civil War, Texas granted a charter to a private company called the Waco Bridge Company and promised them a monopoly on transportation across the river for 25 years if they would build a bridge. No other bridge could be built within five miles. The company hired New York civil engineer Thomas M Giffith to begin plans for the bridge in 1868. Griffith was a skilled engineer, having designed the first bridge to span the Mississippi in 1854. Griffith opted to build a suspension bridge and brought parts in by oxcart. His bridge was completed in 1870, and at the time was the longest suspension bridge west of the Mississippi.

The Waco Suspension Bridge wasn’t only used for cattle drives, of course. It became the main crossing point for travelers of all sorts and allowed Waco to become an economic capital for central Texas. Not only did the bridge bring merchants, farmers, and ranchers into Waco, but the bridge itself became an economic boom. The charter granted the Waco Bridge Company permission to charge a toll. Pedestrians paid five cents, and those on horseback or in carriages were charged ten cents. Any loose cattle or livestock cost five cents per head. The Waco Bridge Company reported that it made approximately $25,000 each year in collected tolls and paid off its mortgage in the first year of operation.

Tolls were collected from a bucket that would be lowered from one of its towers. If you look at the bottom right of the above photograph, the brick section with steps leading outside was where the toll keeper and his family  lived. As one would expect, this toll quickly became unpopular. The county eventually bought the bridge for $75,000 and then sold it to the city for $1 with an agreement in place that the city would eliminate the toll and maintain the structure.

Eventually, the monopoly time frame expired and other bridges sprang up. Bethany and I saw remnants of a railroad bridge platform as well as a trestle bridge that was built in 1901. The trestle bridge had a section open to foot traffic, so we walked across that bridge and got some lovely shots of the river.

With all the traffic coming across the suspension bridge, enterprising local merchants figured out how to take advantage of this prime real estate. As you can see in the picture below, large advertisements hung from the the brick walls.

In 1913, citizens decided they no longer cared for the unattractive bridge since other options were available and asked for it to be torn down. Thankfully, the city preserved this historic bridge, choosing to beautify it by stuccoing over the brick and replacing the wooden trusses with steel. Cars were permitted over the bridge until 1971. Since then, it’s been open to pedestrian traffic only.

In 2010, however, cattle once again made their way across the Waco Suspension Bridge. During the Chisholm Trail Festival, cowboys herded 40 longhorns across the bridge to commemorate this fascinating piece of Texas history.

Do you find old bridges romantic or nerve-wracking?

Do you have any historic bridges in your area?

Winnie’s Winners

Thanks to everyone who joined me Monday to speak about our love (or not) of grilled cheese sandwiches. I threw all the names in a figurative hat and the names selected are:

Patricia B.
Kathy Bailey
Congratulations ladies.  Select which book from my backlist you’d like to have (You can find a list at https://www.winniegriggs.com/booklist.html ) and contact me via my website with the title and your mailing address and I’ll get it right on out to you.

American Indian Trivia, Names & Give-Away

Howdy!

Welcome!  Welcome!

Have you ever wondered what goes into an American Indian’s name?  One of the first things I do when starting a new book is name the hero of the story.  But, why are “eagle,” “hawk,” “horse,” “buffalo,” “bear,” good names for a hero?  Well, there are some rules and I thought I’d talk about them.

The Sioux had three different classes of names.  The first name would show the order of children…like First Child, or First Born Son.  The second class of name (at least in the Lakota society) was the honor name or public names.  The third name was a nickname (sometimes an unflattering name).  Sometimes a man might gain a honoring name different from one of his childhood and this is sometimes called a “deed” name.  And sometimes childhood names remained with a person for all of his/her life.

An honoring name is given usually by the clan medicine-man in a public ceremony.  In the story I’m writing currently called, BLUE THUNDER AND THE FLOWER, the opening scene in the book is a scene where a boy is being given an honoring name.  His grandfather bestows his own name on the boy, BLUE THUNDER STRIKING.

Trivia question:  did you know that Crazy Horse was given his name by his father, who then took a lesser name?  The name Crazy Horse was given to him because of a great deed he performed.

Many years ago, when I was adopted into the Blackfeet tribe in Browning, MT, I was given an Indian name, but it was bestowed on me by the chief of the tribe, Chief Old Person.

In the story, BLUE THUNDER AND THE FLOWER, the boy had been given a nickname prior to his honor name, and that name was somewhat unflattering…Little Skunk.

Deed names usually require some act of courage and so the courageous act is celebrated by giving that man or boy a name from some fear-inspiring animal, like a buffalo, a bear or wolf.  A noble sort of name might be given to a man from one of the nobler birds, like the eagle, the hawk the owl.  Sometimes the character of the courageous act is given along with the name.  For instance, swift or strength or endurance and these give the name a descriptive element, like Challenging Wolf.

Here are some honoring name for boys:  White Eagle; Black Buffalo; Red Wind; Storm; Kills the Man; Shadow Hawk.

What about names for girls?  Well, there were some rules here, as well.  No Indian girl was permitted to wear the skin of a bear or a wolf, a cat, etc.  Nor could she wear eagle feathers as these were masculine representations.  Instead a girl could wear the skins of a doe, ermine, mink, etc.

As far as names were concerned, girls were usually called after the fawn, mink, beaver.  While only boys could have the names of the fiercer animals.  Both boys and girls could be named after the wind or water or sky, but not by the name of Fire.  At least these were the rules in Lakota society.

Here are some names of girls:  White Bird; Sky; Jingles; Earth Maiden; Laughing Maid, Swan Maiden.

Also, often in the stories I write, the hero will give the heroine an Indian name, sometimes flattering and sometimes not.  In the story THE EAGLE AND THE FLAME, the hero first named the heroine, “Deceiving Woman.”  Later, it changes, of course.

So, I thought I’d leave you with an excerpt from my most recent book, IRON WOLF’S BRIDE, and I’ll be giving away a free copy of the book today.  So do please leave a comment.

IRON WOLF’S BRIDE

Excerpt

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

 

Iron Wolf followed her.  It was time to learn what was happening here.  Who was that man?

He intended this to be his first question to the woman who should be, and still was, his wife.  His second question to her would be why she believed he, her husband, had betrayed her.  But this could wait.

He noted that she had fled into a maze that was flanked by fragrant bushes which were taller than a man, and, were he not the scout and tracker he was, he might have become lost within these high shrubs, for the paths intersected one another and led in multiple directions.  But he didn’t lose his way.  He found her soon enough.

Once he had discovered her, he spoke out softly, so she might become aware he had followed her. “What is going on here?  Who is that man you were touching, the one who sat next to you?  What is he to you?”

Jane spun around, the look of surprise on her countenance quickly turning to anger.  She didn’t pause an instant, though, as she accused, “How dare you follow me!”

“I am your husband.  It is my duty to follow you.”

“Well, you can go away now.  I came here to be alone.”

Iron Wolf didn’t leave.  Instead, he repeated his question, for he intended it to be answered, and he asked once more, “Who is that man?”

“That man?”

“The one you touched.  The one who sat beside you tonight.”

“He and I were to be married today.”

She turned her back on him and Iron Wolf didn’t speak; he couldn’t, for he felt as though she had punched him in the gut.

She added, “We didn’t marry today, as it turns out, because I would like my sister to be a part of the marriage ceremony.  So we have postponed our wedding for the time being.  And now you see that I, too, might marry another, as you have.”

Although he wished to speak out loudly, to rage the truth at her, he found it impossible to find his tongue, and so he paused until at last he was able to say, “My wife, you have become like a wild pony in my absence.  How can you marry another when you are already married to me?”

“Am I?  Do you forget you divorced me?  And, how dare you call me ‘wild,’ when you…when you…”  Her voice caught.

He ignored the insult and said instead, “You have now accused me of this too many times.  Who has told this to you?”

“No one has ‘told’ it to me, as you say it.  It was written up in the newspapers, and I have the divorce papers that you signed, or have you conveniently forgotten that?  And, how dare you seduce me in front of all these people tonight; you, who are married to another.  Is she here tonight?  Does she care that you looked at me as you danced as though you were making love to me?”

She spoke so swiftly that he took a moment to understand all she had said, and then he asked, “Do you speak of the white-man’s newspapers where you saw my ‘wife’?”

“Of course.”

“Who showed this to you?”

“Does it matter?”

He sighed.  “Hau, hau, it matters.  I would ask you again, who has said this to you?”

“My uncle, if you must know.”

“Your uncle who owns this house?”

“Yes, indeed.”

Iron Wolf took a moment to collect his thoughts, then said, “You are wrong to believe these people, even if they be family.”

“So you can say easily enough.  But, my uncle is beyond reproach and I am certain he wouldn’t lie to me.  Besides, you forget that I have evidence of your betrayal of me.”

“No,” he countered, “what you have is ‘proof’ that is a lie.  And, now I say that it is good you did not marry that man this day, for had you done so, you would have committed a grave error, one I could not easily set aside.  So now, you must decide and choose between one or the other of us: me—your husband or that man.  For, even in my society, a woman may have only one husband.”

“I have already chosen, and that man is not you.”

Hau, then I will go.”

“Good.”

“But before I go, I wish to see these papers you have mentioned to me many times.  I would witness these lies with my own eyes.”

“They are not lies.”

He raised his voice.  “I say they are, and if you continue to tell me these untruths, I will say that you are a woman of no honor, who tells lies, as well.”

“How dare you shout at me, and how dare you say I am not honorable!”

He blew out his breath in an attempt to control his temper.  At length, he said, “I am a man who must be convinced.  Show me the papers you speak of, for I tell you true: I did not place my written name on anything.  I have no other wife, but you.  Why would I want another woman when the one I have is the sweetest, the most beautiful woman I have ever known or seen?  I ask you, why would I throw away the woman of my heart, for, if I were to do that, would I not destroy her and myself, too?”

He noted that the compliment, spoken as it was from his heart, might have found its target.  However, she did not respond favorably, and she turned her back upon him.

He encouraged, “Show me.”

When she turned around, she was crying, and his heart sank to realize that his raised voice and unkind words might have caused her grief.  Still, what he’d said had been true.

“Do you really think I stoop to tell fibs?  That I don’t have these things in my possession which show you betrayed me and then married another?”

“I would see them.”

She paused, as though she seriously considered his demand, even against her will.  At length, she said, “I suppose that might be a fair request.  So follow me.  I will show you, although I am certain you are already aware of what I am talking about.”

He nodded, but he said nothing except, “Show me.  I will do as you ask and follow you.”

She turned around then and stomped out of the maze.  And, Iron Wolf, astonished again by the obvious—that this was no act and that his wife truly hated him— trailed after her.

 

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The Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

Who doesn’t love the humble but oh-so-yummy grilled cheese sandwich.  Its ooey-gooey goodness not only warms our insides but (at least for me) brings back warm memories of childhood around the dinner table. And, according to my National Day Calendar, April 12 is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, so today I thought I’d offer up some history and fun facts related to this well-loved comfort food.

  • It turns out, the idea of taking bread and cheese and heating them together into a quick and tasty meal goes at least as far back as the ancient Romans. However, the grilled cheese sandwich as we know it today is credited to James L. Craft, who created a method to keep cheese from spoiling quickly. With the advent of commercially available sliced bread in the 1920s he decided it was a match made in culinary heaven!
  • Early versions of the grilled cheese sandwich were made open-faced with only one slice of bread and the cheese was usually grated.
  • Schools eagerly adopted the grilled cheese sandwich, more often than not pairing it with tomato soup. It was a cheap and tasty meal option to fulfill dietary requirements for both protein and vitamin C.
  • Prior to the 1960s the grilled cheese sandwich was often referred to as a “cheese dream”.
  • In 1994 Diana Duyser, a work from home jewelry designer, took a bite from her grilled cheese sandwich then stopped when she saw an image of the Virgin Mary on the toasted portion of her sandwich. She kept the rest of thee sandwich for ten years then listed it on eBay. The winning bid was $2800, placed by Golden Palace, an online casino.
  • The New York restaurant Serendipity 3 holds the record for producing the most expensive edible grilled cheese sandwich. The bread contains champagne and gold flakes and the sandwich includes truffle butter and a rare Caciocavallo Podolico cheese. The cost of this sandwich in 2017 was $214.
  • In 2006 competitive eater Joey Chestnut set a record by eating 47 grilled cheese sandwiches in 10 minutes.

Some fun notes from various surveys:

  • The most popular pairing of the grilled cheese sandwich is with tomato soup.
  • The US cities that rank highest on the “grilled cheese lovers” scale (according to UberEats) are Baltimore, San Diego and Cincinnati.
  • By one estimate, an online search for “how to make a perfect grilled cheese sandwich” will yield over one million results.
  • According to a 2018 market study, Americans consume over 2 billion grilled cheese sandwiches a year.
  • The most popular cheeses for grilled cheese sandwiches (in the US) are American and cheddar.
  • Another survey reports that grilled cheese lovers are not only more generous than their non-grilled cheese lover counterparts but they are also more adventurous and travel more.
  • Food & Wine ranks the grilled cheese sandwich from San Francisco’s The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen as the tastiest. The chef is an MIT engineer named Heidi Gibson.

 

And of course this post wouldn’t be complete without a  recipe so here is a version for my own personal favorite grilled cheese sandwich

Ingredients:

  • Pepper jack cheese – a thick slab or a generous heaping of shredded cheese
  • 2 slices of bread – whatever you have on hand will work but I prefer sourdough
  • Butter seasoned with a touch of garlic salt and cracked pepper to taste
  • Brown mustard

Directions

  • Preheat your skillet on a low heat – I like to use a well-seasoned iron skillet but a regular skillet with a bit of butter will do
  • Spread seasoned butter on one side of each piece of bread (slather it on, don’t skimp!)
  • Add a very thin layer of brown mustard to the unbuttered side of ONE slice of bread (just a enough to flavor but not overpower)
  • Place the cheese on the unbuttered side of one slice of bread
  • Place the bread and cheese, open-faced style, in the skillet with the bread side down and cover for a few minutes, allowing the cheese to melt. Once the cheese starts to melt add the second slice of bread and cook uncovered until both sides are a nice golden brown.
  • Plate and Enjoy!

So let’s discuss. Is there any of the points above that surprised you? Do you like grilled cheese sandwiches? Do you have a favorite recipe?  Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for winners’ choice of any of my backlist books.