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.