FOODIE: Zen & The Art Of Grilled Cheese Making




  1. First you need the following: bread – preferably the honey wheat sesame from Baker’s Street in Chestnut Hill; cheese – not the Kraft singles junk that most likely would survive a nuclear bomb; butter – not margarine (obvious). Also mix in according to emotional relevance – memories of family, friends, and gooey delectableness.

You first entered my life when I was young. It was most likely during an afternoon with my grandmother and grandfather. You were carried to my smiling face with a glass of cold chocolate milk. Together, with an episode of Scooby Doo, we grew exponentially in friendship. You attained emotional significance that day. Every play date since then you have blessed me with your presence, I’m reminded of Saturdays in the spring, watching Tiger play in the Masters, or the Phillies playing the Yankees.

  1. Place pan in pan on stove, and heat butter in order to keep the sandwich from getting stuck on pan – as I learned on one of my first attempts. Heat butter at a low temperature so the butter serves its purpose and doesn’t burn away – Mom reminds me of this a lot. Once ingredients are set out and butter is in pan, find a good cooking CD. I recommend Tom Waits’ Closing Time or Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book.

Sundays have been your day for as long as I can remember. Sitting in mass, falling asleep during the homily and struggling not to sneeze only makes me want you even more. Car rides home are upbeat, with a whole day ahead of me, one that will be spent with soccer, the lawnmower, the pool, and, inevitably, you. Mom asks, “Can I get you guys something for lunch?” Peter and I smile, already having chosen our lunch hours in advance. “Grilled cheese would be great!”, we respond. Occasionally, ham will be thrown in, but most days, cheese does the trick by itself. Peter always eats two, while I stick with one. Soon enough, Mom’s making Dad and Liv grilled cheese. It’s more than a lunch, it’s a seminal family tradition, like “The Stable” – put up at Christmas every year, a gift from my father’s aunt – or trips down into Chester to watch the Union play – which means two hypercritical boys groan about lineups and tactics, while the rest of the family laughs at them. After all, if John Hackworth and Jim Curtin can coach the Union for four years, then I can deservedly complain for at least another 3 years, or until they make the playoffs. But, back to grilled cheese, a family tradition that’s a toast to consistent excellence.

  1. Place bread on stove. Use two pieces of cheese or maybe three if you are really trying to be spontaneous. Under special circumstances – after two o’clock on either Saturday or Sunday very early mornings – it is socially acceptable to add bacon. Just remember to be active the next day. I recommend racquetball. Place cheese on bread. Try not to get too distracted by the people around you and instead focus on the making of a masterpiece. Cook till slightly brown on bottom and then flip.

This year, you joined me at college. Except finally I was making you. Even though the quality is not that of my grandmother’s or mom’s – definitely owes to the cheese – I’m convinced that Kraft singles will be the currency (along with Spam) in a post-nuclear apocalyptic world (Trying to trade for some wood and kindling? Throw in some Kraft singles!) – very few things are as pleasurable as a late night grilled cheese (other things as pleasurable: sitting down, The Beach Boys, Saturday mornings, Christmas, and waking up on the first day of summer). Now, I can make you whenever – assuming someone has washed the dishes – and I basically treat you like currency, selling you to my roommates for games of FIFA and Coca Cola.

  1. Grill until both sides have light browness and cheese has sufficiently melted, for if under cooked it just tastes like a cheese sandwich. This just reminds me of when I try to eat American cheese with nothing else, I take one bite, am not especially thrilled, and then quickly give it to my dog. At least I’m not wasteful with food. Plus the undercooked grilled cheese is one of the criminally undercooked moments in life, like listening to Jack White, a brilliant musician with his own unique style, but one that gets easily trapped in trying to be too idiosyncratic. He should have just kept playing with Meg White. Next serve with whatever plates or bowls you have. I recommend paper because I hate the environment and dishes take too long. La la la whatever. For pleasurable eating experience, play Chance the Rapper’s “Acid Rain” in which Chano muses on his diagonally cut grilled cheese. I favor the straight across cut, but many people would call me boring. Enjoy by yourself while catching up on TV or with friends. Just remember that if you are making it for multiple people, that you don’t pay for the ingredients. Or pay for anything really.

Even more recently I started making you for M. I promised her the best grilled cheese she had ever eaten. Except I didn’t have the ingredients to make you on that Tuesday so she had to go pick up those ingredients from the grocery store. M returned with Wonder Bread, which I had never used to make you before. In fact, Wonder Bread terrified me, solely for the fact that I had never eaten it before. But somehow, someway, I managed to make a grilled cheese that was edible with Wonder Bread. She even declared it the best grilled cheese she had, though this might have been just to soothe my fears about the Wonder Bread. In fact, it probably is meant to be – Wonder Bread and Kraft Singles. Nothing screams college student like cheap bread and even cheaper cheese. Except ramen noodles, which have become ridiculously ubiquitous with the college experience. Nevertheless, I made you for M a lot. There were times when she would come over and I knew immediately it was time to draft you into action. When she was in a bad mood, BAM – it was time for a grilled cheese. You were consistently satisfying as well. My only problem with making you so often was that I constantly had to wash the dishes, which I hate doing more than anything else in my apartment. But nonetheless it made M happy, which therefore made me happy. Even though she is gone now, I still make you periodically. Plus my memories of you with her shine brightly, like the sunny days where M and I would stroll down to Owl Breakfast & Lunch to buy you. I’ve gotten back to making Mac n’ Cheese more, but this is more due to the lack of bread in my apartment. Fresh Grocer is close, but not close enough. There’s been a period of mourning, a wire in my brain that has become untracked, leaving me repeating the same thoughts of her over and over. Certain things remind me of her too much and right now you are still one of them. When I stumble onto you, her smile flashes into my mind. I smile too, but only for a second. Then I remember the end. You won’t end, however. There will be another girl to cook for. It won’t be M, but I’m certain you will delight nonetheless. I just need some time. We all need some time.

  1. Variations of the grilled cheese:

The Monte Cristo: Probably my favorite kind of grilled cheese. I discovered this recipe while in my 9th grade English class and throughout high school, it remained the only meal I could make that wasn’t cereal or Mac n’ Cheese. I traditionally make this type of grilled cheese on Christmas Eve, though I have absolutely no idea as to where I got this tradition from. The Monte Cristo is the ultimate, it sounds gross, but I actually really like it sandwich. Featuring cheese and ham, the secret is making French toast (basically dipping the bread in egg batter), you then cook the sandwich like a grilled cheese and top it off with hot syrup. You will most likely not be able to eat for a few hours or maybe not even move, but the sandwich is a masterpiece.

The burned grilled cheese where you try to scrape off the burned brown bits:

I recently made one of these for my roommate, Colin. I burned the shit out of it. It was burned enough that I considered throwing it out, until I remembered I live with Colin, a lanky goofball dedicated to growing into a dad body (basically just a beer belly). So I walked into Colin’s room with a Natty Ice (his favorite beer – I’m not sure what I did to deserve this) and a recently scraped grilled cheese. Kid couldn’t even taste the difference. Me 1, Colin 0.

The grilled mac n’ cheese: this is probably the most underwhelming grilled cheese I have ever made. I came back high from my friends’ apartment where I had been researching different types of grilled cheese to make. I stumbled upon the Holy Grail of grilled cheese – or so I thought. This grilled cheese needs Easy Mac, flour, bread crumbs, bread, and cheese. Well I should have read Easy Mac and immediately run the other way. Colin and I decided to make this supposedly brilliant grilled cheese and to say it was a let down would be a big overstatement. I really should have taken a couple of sober minutes to think about what I was going to make and decide if it was actually a good idea.

The Chris grilled cheese: named after another of my roommates, Chris, this grilled cheese is fairly new to me. Featuring chipotle mayo, honey chipotle barbeque sauce, and bacon, this grilled cheese is really only worthy of Chris, who is constantly admonishing me for my lack of food knowledge or how to use a Keurig. Apparently I even once woke him up during a nap to ask him how to get a stain out of my clothes, though this is rather unbelievable for me. Admittedly, this is a delicious grilled cheese, however snobby I may feel making it. If you are trying to make a true Chris though you must include jalapeños, which he did not save enough of for me anyway. I’m also still mad at him for not making me a cheeseburger the one night while I was at class. I love cheeseburgers.

Grilled cheese is more valuable than any toiletries I might buy. I could go without soap or shampoo, if I had some grilled cheese. Brushing my teeth is a nice commodity but I would give it up, if I had some grilled cheese. Vitamins are most likely essential but I could break them in half and conserve, if I had some grilled cheese. Or Chipotle. I would really like a burrito.