Ode to the grilled cheese

Once in a while, I just want to talk about food.

This is an ode to my favorite sandwich in the world. This is a love story about the grilled cheese. I have become an expert at it. A connoisseur. I have become virtuosic. Once, one of my friends ate a sandwich I’d made and immediately faked an orgasm. Or maybe she wasn’t faking. Either way, I have a right to brag.

I remember my first grilled cheeses. They were tuna melts. My dad called them “grilled cheese tuna”s, and he made them for me when I was three or four years old. I hated mayonnaise. I thought it smelled disgusting. He thought it was hilarious that I thought that (you know, he was very concerned about being in touch with his child’s emotions). He licked it off the spoon and I ran out of the room. I came back for the sandwich.

I started to get creative when I moved to the city. I was on my own, and I didn’t have to eat college dining hall food ever again. First I bought baked beans and chocolate croissants and eel rolls and tons of spinach and the occasional pastrami sandwich. I bought bagels. And then I felt a little sick and the baked beans grew mold in the back of the refrigerator, and I started to make sandwiches. I made grilled cheeses with alfalfa sprouts and fresh mozzarella and homemade honey mustard and crisp lettuce. I made grilled cheeses with bright orange cheddar and garlic chicken and sautéed onions. And then with three different kinds of cheese. And then with tzatziki sauce. On whole grain. On potato rolls. On my favorite, sourdough. Once in a while, on a bagel. Once there was filet mignon. I searched for watercress.


My friend came over at that point and faked the orgasm. She swore she would integrate tzatziki into more of her meals. Possibly all of them. And then she couldn’t find it anywhere, and she called me to tell me I was a tease.

And then I met Bear, and for this brief moment in time, I felt like being a fifties housewife. He sent me an email from work. It said, “I feel really bad that you’re washing my dishes. Can you please not do that?”

I wrote back, “Just appreciate it while it lasts.” And then I went back to washing his dishes. And then I went to Trader Joes by Union Square and bought vegetables and meat and cooked dinner. And I stopped making sandwiches.

Well, Bear is a diabetic, so he can’t eat bread anyway. But I stopped making sandwiches for myself as well. I felt grown up. I was cooking full meals. Two vegetable dishes and a meat. We had people over, and I timed everything almost, almost right.

I belong to a writing group that meets at my apartment every few weeks, and I make dinner for everyone. I made mushroom lasagna and cabbage stew and various complicated things involving eggplant. And then one day I was working too much and running too many errands and I didn’t have time. So I made grilled cheeses on sourdough. With tomato and avocado and russian dressing.

At first, everyone said, “I love this.” But then they got more comfortable and they told me, “This is the best thing you’ve made.” Which was embarrassing, because, y’know, I’d spent like three hours on the friggin’ mushroom lasagna (with bechamel sauce). And that galette (eventually I will expand my non-sandwich repertoire beyond smitten kitchen).

And since then, I’ve just made grilled cheeses when I have company. It’s been pretty awesome. Someone told me the other day, “This might be your true talent.” Someone else said, “I think this is what you’re best at.”

Which is hard to hear, since I, of course, aspire to be a very famous writer. But I’m learning to accept it. Possibly even embrace. We’re at one of those half-hugs where you pat the back a little.

Anyway, food is one of my great joys in life (along with sunshine, mountains, love, the city from a distance, sex, writing, and dangly earrings), and I think it deserves celebrating. I get the sense that food is not supposed to be one of my great joys. And just like I’m not supposed to eat the damn cake, I’m not supposed to think about grilled cheeses quite so much. There might be a pill for this. Or maybe just a strict diet.

But I love my relationship with food. So here’s to a beautiful future in which the grilled cheese and I never, ever part!

* * *

Un-roast: Today I love the way I continue to love looking a little like a boy. It sounds like a cop-out un-roast, but I think it’s kinda a big deal. Hooray for feeling consistently good about looking consistently boyish!

For other posts involving grilled cheese, check out my post about 20-somethings and the one called “lessons about failure and success” (apparently grilled cheeses inspire existential musings).

This post is dedicated to my brother-in-law (someone needs to come up with shorter terms for people related through marriage), who recently had a birthday, and who asked for a post about grilled cheese as a gift. He also said something about tomato soup, but I have to save something for next year. Happy belated birthday, Dan!

New post at Un-schooled, about the right way to homeschool.


Kate on February 22nd 2011 in food

43 Responses to “Ode to the grilled cheese”

  1. sophie responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    I too share you’re love for cheese on toast (as it’s known here in britain). My favourite is cheddar and baked beans….
    I may have to go make some now

  2. Erin Block responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    Tuna melts! I too ate these as a kid…and loved them. Except, I hated warmed tuna…passionately hated it in casseroles. But, loved it in grilled cheese. Grilled cheese makes everything better…

  3. Joy responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Well said! Grilled cheese is indeed the king, queen and empress of sandwiches.

  4. kerry responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    You need to come to Cleveland and visit Melt. Look it up, it will blow your mind. I’ll let you crash at my place if you don’t mind a hysterical dog:)

  5. Kate responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 12:57 pm #

    “Melt.” Sounds amazing. My brother lives in Cleveland and I’ve never visited, so maybe I should check it out!

    Also, I grew up with a hysterical dog who spun in endless, frantic circles. So that would be fine :-)

  6. Jessi responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    my hubby and i ate grilled chee (as we call it) last night for dinner. i love it with some beefed up tomato soup to dip it in. we take regular tomato soup and put in so many spices it burns to eat it…


    thanks, i love your comments.


    p.s. i’m growing out my hair now after having it in pixi cut for about 10 years (more or less). i love the pixi cut, rock it. i will eventually go back there…

  7. Virginia responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    Good GOD. This post makes me want a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch.

  8. Ashley responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    My mom made us grilled cheeses a lot growing up, and I have recently rediscovered them as an adult and they are delish. Sounds like you make the best though.

  9. Tempest responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    “So I made grilled cheeses on sourdough. With tomato and avocado and russian dressing.”

    O.M.F.G. I just had a vision of heaven.

    With just a touch of bacon maybe…

    I love grilled cheese sandwiches.

  10. Beryl Yelton responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 1:39 pm #

    I have an “old” grill from the 50′s, and when my first one burned out, had to hit the antique shops for another. Found one, and when I divorced, that was one of the items we fought over. It is the only way I can make a “great” grilled cheese sandwich. I won, and don’t know what I will do when this one burns out.

  11. JJgal responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 2:24 pm #

    Now I’m hungry. LOL

  12. JJgal responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    Oh and you cannot call those wonderful variations you described merely “grilled cheese” – they sound fabu!!!

  13. Meri responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    I like grilled cheese, but I’m an even bigger fan of its trashy cousin, the quesadilla. I find it easier to stuff in random other ingredients between tortillas than between bread. I think I’ve added everything from peppers to sweet potato mash to cranberries and sunflower seeds.
    Oh, I sort of have food ADHD.
    Anyhow, three cheers for Grilled Cheese!

  14. Stacy responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    Eat the damn grilled cheese!

    Relatives by marriage:

    Brother-in-law = Bro-i-l = Broil

    Sister-in-law = Sisil

    Parents-in-law don’t work quite as well using this system, as they turn out to be Motil or Mail or Fatil or Fail.

    I prefer Momil and Dadil.

  15. Mandy responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    Kate, if you are better at grilled cheese than you are at writing (hard to believe) I may have to make a trip to see you, and beg you to make one for me…

    BTW, I’m having a scary week, and you just made me laugh. Thank you–I REALLY needed that!

  16. OMSH responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    I love food too, but my palate has changed. I now love colorful food–tomatoes, avocados, salads, cheeses, and always with wine–must have wine.

  17. Dana Udall-Weiner responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Just made one for me and my 3 year-old today. Lunch. The simple kind with cheese and butter on whole wheat bread. I love the embellishments (sprouts, avocado, fancy cheese), but the purist in me likes the simplicity of the original thing. And there is no better pairing than tomato soup. Yum!

  18. B1 responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    I LOVE grilled cheese and am planning on making one when I get home. :-)

  19. GBF responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    A friend of mine had a party for a bunch of girlfriends recently. She made some great homemade tomato soup. We (her guests) were responsible for making our own grilled cheese sandwiches to accompany it. She set up a buffet with all sorts of wonderful ingredients…we each went through the line to make our selections; we ended at her five burner cooktop where we each proceeded to cook up our own little masterpiece. Mine had two types of cheese, avocado, apple slices, mustard, a little pesto and some fresh sage. It was absolutely delish and a very fun way to have a party.

  20. monika responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    i love grilled cheese.
    i even like just hearing people say it.

  21. Kate responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    That sounds like an incredibly fun party. Someone, if I have a big kitchen, I’m going to do exactly that.

  22. Kate responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 7:13 pm #

    also, sage is amazing on grilled cheese!

  23. Kate responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    I’m sorry about your scary week! I hope it improves really soon. I’d be happy to make you a grilled cheese anytime you want to visit!

  24. Just Josie responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    Brother-in-law = BIL (And of course, then, there’s SIL, MIL, and FIL.)

    Honestly, I’m not such a fan of the grilled cheese sandwich. I feel like a heretic saying that here! Ahaha. Then again, I haven’t made one since going vegan. (Note to self!)

  25. Kate responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 7:29 pm #

    @Just Josie
    Get off my blog. You aren’t welcome here ever again. Only those who truly love the grilled cheese can participate on this forum.

    Kidding!! But I feel like you can’t just tell me you don’t like it without recommending that I try some other delicious food that you love. So what will it be?

    And also, BIL…Yeah. I guess that was obvious. Sigh. Sometimes I despair of my mind…

  26. Wei-Wei responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    You can be the grilled cheese goddess, eating the damn cake.

  27. Kate responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    I accept.

  28. Suzanne responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    I love grilled cheese. MMMMMMmmmmm….mozzeralla, cheddar, gouda, etc. etc. My kids love grilled cheese w/tomato soup. Grilled cheese could be one of the best thing in life! I’d rather be round and eat the lovely grilled cheese than square and not. hee hee.

  29. MarieElizabeth responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    Amen! Sing it sister – I never met a grilled cheese I didn’t LOVE. I think it’s food for the soul.

  30. Mandy responded on 22 Feb 2011 at 11:59 pm #

    One of the things I love about your blog, and the commentors, is that everyone is so darned supportive!
    Thank you, sweetie.

    Unroast: I love, love, love my irreverent sense of humor!

  31. Kate responded on 23 Feb 2011 at 12:04 am #

    What a good compliment! I lucked out in the reader/commenter department. I feel really fortunate.

    And nice un-roast!

  32. Danny responded on 23 Feb 2011 at 1:18 am #

    I hope this becomes your most popular post yet!

  33. Lilli responded on 23 Feb 2011 at 5:13 am #

    I looooove grilled cheese, except, as sophie said, it’s called cheese on toast in england. I guess my favourite variation is something my mother used to make, which she always made out to be a treat, but was basically a cop out when she didn’t feel like cooking me dinner: pizza-toast, which basically involved putting my favourite pizza toppings (red peppers, pineapple and sunflower seeds) on top of toast, with tomato sauce and cheese… to this day it is still my favourite comfort food :)
    From the sounds of the comments though, kate, i think you may be having quite a few visitors to try out your grilled cheese… maybe if you get such favourable responses you could open a little sandwich shop-thingey, there’s a small one up teh road from me that does a roarinf business, and i could imagine people queuing up the road for cheese on toast :D

  34. Dawn responded on 23 Feb 2011 at 5:52 am #

    You got my wheels turning on what I could use that I already have in the frig. Left-over grilled chicken…add to that sauteed sweet onion and bell pepper…with pepper jack cheese…but I don’t know if I already have a bread that’s worthy.

  35. Betsy responded on 23 Feb 2011 at 7:48 am #

    So Ive been reading your blog for awhile and this one makes me have to post! I love grilled cheese! It was the only thing I’d eat for supper when I was a little kid – except I thought it was called “girl cheese” and I told my dad he couldn’t have any.

    Anyway, one of these days Im going to send you a long letter, because we have an lot of strange and random things in common (most of all being opinionated unschooled alumni. LOL)

    And my mom loves your blog too, and shes going to laugh at me for having to post about grilled cheese. But oh well. Its worth it.

    And oh yes, I do think you have the best blog title out there. :)

  36. Ilana responded on 23 Feb 2011 at 10:22 am #

    I have been reading your blog for a little while now but have been too shy to comment because I am the kind of person who thinks that she doesn’t have much to contribute when things have already been put in words so well by the author. I will work on that, but in the mean time I have a really great blog link for you! It’s called the grilled cheese social and it is written by a girl I went to high school with that is just as into grilled cheese as you. The link is: http://www.grilledcheesesocial.com. Maybe it will inspire you :) Happy eating!

  37. Kate responded on 23 Feb 2011 at 11:15 am #

    I promise to give you half the credit if that happens.

  38. Kate responded on 23 Feb 2011 at 11:15 am #

    Thanks for commenting! And the link is awesome. I love your friend’s blog!

  39. Just Josie responded on 23 Feb 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    Ha, you should have seen my face when I read, “Get off of my blog.” I swear, it was the stuff of a kicked puppy. (Pretend that made sense, okay?)

    And, um… Brownies! But they’re a dessert, too. Not that that’s a bad thing. But for good measure, I’ll throw in burritos. Best thing ever. (Yes, I just said that. :P )

  40. Kate responded on 24 Feb 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    @Just Josie
    I’ll take burritos. Good choice.

    And to your sad-face-response, you know I love you!

  41. lala responded on 02 Mar 2011 at 10:49 am #


    1) we are samesies…i have strong sandwich making skills, specifically in the grilled cheese arena.

    2) this post rocks the house…

    3) i just discovered your blog and it makes me so happy; you are spilling over with wit and charm. I’m so fwding you to my friends.

    thanks a million for sharing!

  42. Kate responded on 02 Mar 2011 at 11:22 am #

    What a sweet comment!! Thanks!

  43. Eat the Damn Cake » the most gorgeous man in the world responded on 22 Jan 2014 at 11:13 am #

    [...] and I had some other things in common, besides appreciation of a good grilled cheese: we both loved Agatha Christie and romantic stories. Hers was the most romantic of all, she told [...]