I haven’t had a grilled cheese since I was a tween. Grilled cheese was always the “kid” thing to eat. If my mother was running late for a bunco game or PTA meeting, she’d whip up a grilled cheese for me. At first I thought it was a treat, but as an only child for most of my childhood, I noticed no one else was eating a grilled cheese with me. I became suspicious.
I remember going with my parents to a local barbecue joint and declaring I hated barbecue. My alternative was a grilled cheese—two hamburger bun tops turned out and grilled with cheese and butter in the middle.
At a young age, I could tell grilled cheese was the backup.
Maybe that’s why I stopped eating them. I grew more adventurous in what I would try. I wanted to sit at the adult table but more importantly eat the same things as the adults. At 10, I proudly informed a waitress that, “Yes, my party of 4 would like a booth, and, no, I do not want crayons.” I ignored the kids’ menu. I didn’t want a balloon to take home.
And I never ordered a grilled cheese again.
I didn’t know that not all grilled cheese sandwiches are created equal—usually because so many are made with prepackaged slices of American cheese. In my opinion, that’s not cheese at all. (And American cheese isn’t naturally that yellow.)
As a kid, I thought my grilled cheese sandwiches were the lesser-than alternative dinners. And even though that wasn’t my mother’s intention, I was partly right. All those cheese singles were sub-par. The classic formula [2 pieces of white bread + 1 cheese single = a grilled cheese] created a monoculture of what I thought a grilled cheese was for more than 20 years.
That shattered last week when I went to a Cheeseboy.
Cheeseboy, a Boston franchise, is a fast food restaurant specilizing in grilled cheese. By that, they make the grilled cheese special. They “satisfy your cheese tooth.”
There was so much cheese. Muenster. Provolone. Swiss. Sure, they had the classic grilled cheese with American, but it wasn’t pre-packaged, pre-sliced cheese. It was authentic.
There were bread choices and toppings to choose from as well. The world opened up as I read off the menu board. I could dress up my grilled cheese. I could pair it with spinach or bacon or even jalapenos.
Grilled cheese is making a comeback for me. I made a colby-jack grilled cheese with whole wheat bread last night. And I never thought it was a quick-fix or substitute for something better. There is such a thing as the sophisticated grilled cheese.
More grown up grilled cheese sandwiches:
Grilled Cheese and Tomato on Rye
Grilled Cheese Turkey and Pickle
Golden Gate Grilled Cheese
Grilled Pimiento Cheese Sandwiches (pictured above)