The grilled cheese sandwich is a national treasure. National Grilled Cheese Day is on April 12, 2021 which just happens to be my birthday. I grew up on grilled cheese and I still love American cheese slices. You can mess around with many ingredients- put ham and pineapple on pizza, pour orange juice over your breakfast cereal, put ice in your red wine – but, in my opinion, you just can’t improve on a classic grilled cheese. It’s the perfect food – easy to eat on the run, comforting when you are sick and delicious served with milk or champagne.
It’s hard to imagine a world without American cheese slices, but according to holidayscalendar.com, they did not exist before 1911. That’s when James L. Kraft invented the processed cheddar cheese we know as American cheese. Why are grilled cheese sandwiches so popular? Because they are so easy to make and eat. Otto Frederick Rohwedder invented a bread slicing machine and offered it to the public in 1928, which made it easier than ever to put two slices of bread together with cheese and throw it on the grill. Another important invention that helped the popularity of grilled cheese was the bread wrapping machine which was invented in the early 1900’s by Gustav Papendick.
As any budget conscious parent or college student will tell you, grilled cheese is the best sandwich to serve for breakfast, lunch or dinner because it is filling and inexpensive. That is, of course, if you are not serving the world’s most expensive grilled cheese. As reported by CNBC.com, Serendipity 3 (restaurant in New York City) makes this grilled cheese is made with two pieces of French Pullman champagne bread which is made with Dom Perignon champagne and 24 karat edible gold flakes, white truffle butter and the very rare Caciocavallo Podolico cheese. The grilled cheese is then served on a Baccarat Crystal plate with South African Lobster Tomato Bisque.
When is a grilled cheese sandwich not a grilled cheese sandwich? If you are a traditionalist, you may balk at some of these sandwiches that have the audacity to call themselves grilled cheese: A current favorite is a macaroni and cheese grilled cheese – EXCUSE ME? Macaroni and cheese layered between two slices of bread is not a grilled cheese. The macaroni gets in the way of the main reason we love grilled cheese – the cheese! Tom and Chee Restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio serves up a Grilled Chee Donut – grilled glazed donut with mild Cheddar cheese – oh please! One of the specialties at Grilled Cheese & Company in Catonsville, Maryland is a sandwich thickly layered with Maryland crab dip and melted Monterey Jack cheese – that just makes me feel crabby. Then there’s figs and gouda, brie and apple, pizza grilled cheese…oh my, must I go on?
I admit I am a traditionalist when it comes to grilled cheese. So, what ingredients are acceptable in my grilled cheese book? Slice bread, American cheese, butter (maybe mayonnaise if it’s Duke’s…I’m a southern grilled cheese lover!) and that’s it. Okay, maybe a little crisp bacon will be alright.
It is fun to try different variations of grilled cheese sandwiches during Grilled Cheese Month. Just call them by their proper names because if you say you are serving “Grilled Cheese”, most people will be expecting a grilled American cheese sandwich. PERIOD.
Will you be whipping up grilled cheese sandwiches for your family on National Grilled Cheese Day? What’s your favorite cheese and bread combo for a grilled cheese sandwich?