The Tao of Grilled Cheese

I have this t-shirt; it's black with blue lettering that reads "find your center." At yoga class, I'm encouraged to focus on my core, which is supposed to help strengthen my back and help balance both the body and mind, but sometimes all I can see are the blubber rolls jiggling around my belly button. (Maybe it's time to take that third eye in for a checkup.)


Goin' home with grilled cheese. (Kim O'Donnel)

Then there are times in my practice when I am indeed able to locate body-mind central, a place from which I can observe my life at that given moment without judgment. That's not to say I'm trying to clean up or fix things from the day, but rather to look at those events as clouds passing by. Going, gone. It's an opportunity to pause, like when you're about to blow out candles on your birthday cake. Some people call this kind of practice meditation; others call it New Age mumbo jumbo.

Whatever you want to call it, we all have occasional transcendental "being in the moment" experiences -- staring out at the ocean, hiking in the woods, falling in love across a crowded room, working at the stove -- that make life worth living.

I've been at this business of writing about home cookin' for a good many years, testing recipes both simple and serious, easy and complex. I've traveled to many places in pursuit of higher learning about cuisines and culture, ingredients and technique. But the one dish that stands above the rest -- the culinary equivalent of finding my center - is a grilled cheese sandwich.

The most simple and humble of hot sandwiches is what makes me feel most at home, when time stands still, when I think of nothing but the alchemy that results from two slices of ordinary bread, a few hunks of cheese and the heat of a skillet.

It is the grilled cheese that has walked alongside me throughout my life. I remember the brief splash of time back in the early 1970s when my brother John regularly declared his favorite sandwich "the girl cheese." It is the grilled cheese that would get me a job waiting tables and the nickname of "Lulu" at the American Diner in West Philadelphia. It is the grilled cheese that cemented a budding relationship with a man named Bob, who taught me how to weigh down the second side with a small lid or plate, to help speed up the melting process before the bread would burn. It is the grilled cheese that bonded me and my girl Nan, a time when we'd commiserate about our lives and our loves. And it is the grilled cheese that always soothes an aching heart, PMS, a skinned knee.

Just a few Sundays ago, Mister MA and I were sitting around my mother's kitchen. She likes it when I cook breakfast. Usually it's an omelette ("Remember Kimberly, I like mine hard"), but I wasn't in the mood for eggs. I wanted a grilled cheese.

We pulled out the bread (I chose rye; they opted for something softer), the sharp cheese and the strong mustard, my choice of grilled-cheese condiment. I assembled three sandwiches while they watched, and I noticed a collective calm in the room. Everyone was quiet, as I stood by the skillet, one by one, flipping those grilled cheeses.

And one by one, the sandwiches were sliced into triangles, feeding two of my favorite people in the world. That's the way it is with grilled cheese. No one ever seems to mind.

Take the grilled cheese poll and weigh in on the meaning of grilled cheese in the comments area below.

By Kim ODonnel |  January 24, 2008; 11:45 AM ET Kitchen Musings
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Comments

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no option for brie? or swiss? what the heck kind of grilled cheese survey is this?!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 12:16 PM

Grilled cheese is a great comfort food and excellent on a snowy day. Fun memories of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup after a morning of sledding when school was cancelled for snow.

Question: why do the results of the survey display the responses in a different order than they appear in the questions? (and not in any logical sort that I can see)

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 12:21 PM

I loved your reference to your brother's fondness for "girl cheese" sandwiches. When our daughter was 3 or 4 she asked almost daily for a "greased girl sandwich."

Posted by: Texas cook | January 24, 2008 12:28 PM

Saturday lunches as a child were either tuna fish salad sandwiches or "cheesewiches" and tomato soup, using the Kraft slices. Now I prefer better cheeses (Havarti, cheddar, Swiss) on whole grain with mayo, sometimes a slice of ham.

Posted by: WV Commuter | January 24, 2008 12:32 PM

The grilled cheese sandwich is my absolute fave! I'll take it anyway I can get it, to be honest. White or wheat, cheez or cheese, veggies or bacon or plain. My favorite combinations are whole wheat bread & cheddar & tomato, or whole wheat bread & wensleydale w/ cranberries, or whole wheat bread & montery jack & spinach. (Can you tell I prefer whole wheat? I have since I was a child. The darker the better.) I've also made a cheddar & apple one that was yummy. Velveeta even has its' place since it melts so divinely. Gjetost is one of my favorite cheeses, but doesn't melt quite right in a sandwich. Not bad, but not melty.

The thing I do differently these days is that, for caloric reasons, I skip the butter on the outside of the bread and use a light hand with the cheese. I make them on the George Forman griller instead of the usual skillet. It lightens it up to allow me to justify eating them more often. Grilled cheese sandwich + salad or tomato soup is a pretty healthy meal.

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | January 24, 2008 12:37 PM

My kingdom for a grilled cheese right now!! Oh, I'm so hungry thinking about this. Kim, you did this to me last week with the carbonara!

Posted by: Juicy | January 24, 2008 12:49 PM

As a gluten free gal, I no longer enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches. I still love making them for my kids and hubby, though. I made a grilled swiss on rye the other night for my husband that probably cemented our relationship for another 30 years.
I've made grilled cheese on GF bread but it's just not the same, so I go without. Whatever your preference, cherish the grilled cheese, especially for those of us less fortunate!

Posted by: GF gal | January 24, 2008 12:56 PM

Ah...real comfort food. Nothing beats a hearty tomato soup (no Campbell's for me) and grilled cheese with bacon and tomato. The bread can be hearty and dense, but definitely not sweet. The cheese - American, Asiago, mild Cheddar, Colby or Monterey Jack - two slices, one on top of the bacon and tomato and one under, but the cheese can't overwhelm the sandwich. There's an art, not just a recipe, to this meal.

Posted by: Momj47 | January 24, 2008 1:00 PM

Grilled Cheese is my comfort food. I have to admit that the sinful indulgence of Velveeta or plastic wrapped American cheese slices makes it more appealling -- the whole eating something bad thing. My mom always made them with a touch of mayo on the outside (not butter) and served them with a variety of accents including bacon, sprouts, or guacamole.

Posted by: KitchenCat | January 24, 2008 1:04 PM

2 slices of Wonder white bread...3 slices of Kraft Cheesefood singles (Deluxe is good, too)..and butter. Nothing else is required.

The bread should not be smashed. Cook it slowly..let the bread grill slowly. By not smashing the bread..the heat will rise through and melt the cheese. MMMMMMM!

Oh, and as a child, I too called it a "girl cheese". My 81 year old mother STILL tells me.

Posted by: a not so gourmet | January 24, 2008 1:10 PM

Muenster! On rye, with butter inside and out. Mmmmmm.

Posted by: Mel | January 24, 2008 1:14 PM

I have eaten sandwiches in multiple countries on three continents and a grilled cheese sandwich that my wife made the other day was the best I have ever eaten. It consisted of rosemary Italian bread, chopped garlic and sharp Irish cheddar. She fried it in butter on low heat. I'm thinking about contacting Michel Richard to sell him licensing rights.

Posted by: Tom | January 24, 2008 1:34 PM

GF gal - you should look up and try a recipe for "frico", a cheese and potato treat from northern Italy (Friuli Venezia Giulia to be specific). Just google "frico", there's a lot of recipes out there. I like the thicker varieties that have a crisp outside and a gooey center.

It's not a grilled cheese sandwich, but it's a grilled cheese!

Posted by: Arlington, VA S | January 24, 2008 1:34 PM

Dubliner is remarkably good in a grilled cheese sandwich. But usually my only rule is the sharper the better.

Posted by: Cheese Wiz | January 24, 2008 1:49 PM

I'm more of a fundamentalist ... bread, cheese, and butter. Anything else is something else. Like a tuna melt. Or a ham and cheese melt. I've typically been rather trailer trash about it (but then I grew up in a trailer), Velvetta, individual Kraft slices, and now the deli style from Kraft in either American or Sharp. I think I may have tried rye before and will definitely have it in the near the future that way.

Posted by: Anthony | January 24, 2008 1:52 PM

The choice of cheeses is only one of several critical questions I ponder when compiling a delicious grilled cheese sandwich.

Other critical questions:

Choice of bread: an exquisite rye makes for a crisp and tasty sandwich

Choice of meat: salami makes a great filler between slices of goopy cheese

Other additions: don't forget the tomato!

Posted by: tee bacon | January 24, 2008 1:53 PM

I agree with the first comment - the choices were too narrow. Brie, gouda, fontina and many others can make great grilled cheese. At our house, we often mix cheddar and swiss. For the adults, we add chili garlic sauce like you get from the asian grocery (and maybe a little Spike seasoning). We serve it with sliced tomatoes, cumcumbers, and avocado.

Posted by: Blinkermann | January 24, 2008 1:55 PM

If you want a really great sandwich, try a grilled cheese, ham and tomato. Someone turned me on to it one day and it is truly fantastic!

Posted by: cleveland parker | January 24, 2008 2:06 PM

Momj47 "...grilled cheese with bacon and tomato." Works great with potato bread, soft and dense enough to stand up to the grill. That's the ticket...

Posted by: jimcardillo | January 24, 2008 2:14 PM

Dubliner, havarti or colby jack are my personal favorites on whole grain bread from Great Harvest. Add a nice slice of tomato, maybe some ham and lightly butter both sides.

My kids gave me a cast iron grill pan with a press for Xmas and I like the way the sandwiches turn out - nicely grilled with melty, gooey cheese and little burning.

I never think far enough ahead to contemplate homemade soup, so I always have a few cans of Campbell's Tomato Bisque in the pantry.

Posted by: SapphicHokieMom | January 24, 2008 2:18 PM

No Velveeta to choose from? My favorite is Velveeta on plain white bread with bacon strips welded into the cheese. Buttered on the outside. And a mug of tomato soup. Only a once or twice a year indulgence on especially cold, snowy days.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | January 24, 2008 2:21 PM

Manchego! With slices of tomato, and maybe some bits of jalapeno.

Posted by: Rosslyn | January 24, 2008 2:23 PM

Great column!

We found a great way to use up the extra fresh cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving. Grilled cheese with Brie (technically, it was toasted open face, but the spirit is the same).

I'm also a big Mac-n-cheese fan. Home made every time.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | January 24, 2008 2:28 PM

How about Grilled cheese and apple? yum.

although my favorite snack growing up was a piece of bread with American cheese (open faced) under the broiler. careful, don't let it burn!

Posted by: SSMD | January 24, 2008 2:29 PM

I had a grilled cheese dinner party recently. Offered three types of cheese and allowed people pick butter or olive oil to grease up the bread. It was delightful, though I still have several pounds of cheese in my refrigerator.

Posted by: Amanda | January 24, 2008 2:57 PM

In Britain, pubs serve "toasties" - they use cheddar, and sometimes add ham or bacon (their version, which is more like Canadian bacon than ours) or tomato, or both. I'm there a lot, and it's my standard lunchtime meal.

(but my favorite at home is jalapeno monterrey jack, on rye.)

Posted by: annapolitan | January 24, 2008 2:58 PM

When I was a child, my mom would always serve the sandwich (cut on the diagonal), with a big dollop of full-fat *mayonnaise* on the plate. Dunking the sandwich corner into the mayo is a great memory. But, I can't imagine doing that now! Does anyone else do this?

Posted by: Kate | January 24, 2008 3:07 PM

Anthony is dead on... a grilled cheese is bread, butter and cheese (Kraft American Singles are fine and they melt better than deli). Remember, the key is to have the younguns enjoy it too. When you start putting it on rye or using gouda or muenster you lose the simplicity of the sandwich that makes this a fond childhood memory.

Posted by: hamptontonyc | January 24, 2008 3:31 PM

I stumbled upon my perfect cheese combination about a month ago. Biery Hot Pepper with some Munchee. It's a nice combination of sweet and hot. And it's on wheat. And like DC Cubefarm, I do it up in the George Foreman without butter.

Mmmm, Mmmmm, good!!

Posted by: stevo | January 24, 2008 3:52 PM

Another comfort food for us was 'egg and bread' -- which consisted of a hot soft-boiled egg, a slice of white bread torn into chunks to soak up the runny yolk, and a pat of butter in a bowl or coffee mug. This was usually a late night snack if we were hungry before going to bed.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | January 24, 2008 4:18 PM

On a road trip with my father once, we decided to stop in Baltimore for lunch. I begged my dad to take me to Hooters. As a woman, I had never been there, and I just had to go inside and see what it was all about.

I was a vegetarian at the time, so I couldn't order the famous (or infamous) wings. I ordered the grilled cheese platter through giggles at our server's outfit. I probably called it a "girl cheese" as well.

One thing that people say about Hooters is that no one goes for the food, but two slices of American and one of Provolone on Texas Toast with lots of butter curly fries is the reason I still go to Hooters ten years later.

Posted by: Joy | January 24, 2008 4:30 PM

I love it so many ways from basic to "fancier" cheeses. With tomato or without but I think my fav is with a little bit of honey...simply divine

Posted by: GC Lover | January 24, 2008 4:34 PM

Then there's the apple jelly and crisp bacon sandwich -- on any kind of bread. This is another autumn or cold weather favorite

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 4:37 PM

Everyone complaining that cheeses like Brie are not one of the choices for the poll. I think the "esoteric curds and whey" covers Brie and other "fancier" cheeses

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2008 5:03 PM

Good, grainy, bread.
Good cheese; sharp cheddar is good.
Sliced tomato (when you can get a good tomato, of course!)
Butter, but not too much.
MMMMMMMM.
I find the concept of condiments on grilled cheese (mayonnaise or mustard) somewhat gross, but to each his (or her)own.
My mom always buttered the inside of the bread. I did too, until I made them with a friend who questioned all that butter. Now I don't butter the inside of the bread and it's better - not so greasy.
I also learned about using tomato from a friend - my mom never did - and I definitely think it makes it better. Not that there's anything wrong with just plain cheese.

Posted by: MH in NC | January 24, 2008 5:16 PM

Cracked wheat bread produces a unique nutty flavor when toasted in hot oil. Don't use butter.

Put about 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and heat until a crumb of bread dropped in bubbles vigorously. Toast about 1.0 minutes on each side, turning the heat down slightly for the second side. Goal is a golden brown toast. Don't let it blacken anywhere. Turn out onto a paper towel.

Let cool 3-4 minutes, until cheese begins to congeal. The flavor is not as good when you eat it too hot.

Posted by: Denny | January 24, 2008 6:40 PM

Doesn't anyone put ketchup on their grilled cheese? This is THE BEST. I always have - everyone I know in MN does this - my husband thought it was pretty weird when we first meant (he's from FL) - but now he loves it, too. Mustard? Yuck. Cheese? Meunster and Cheddar!!!

Posted by: ketchupgirl | January 24, 2008 7:26 PM

cheese: monterey jack with jalapenos or muenster with caraway seeds.

Posted by: mp | January 24, 2008 7:27 PM

Sorry to post here but couldn't figure out how to get into the chat...

A note for the chatters looking for metro accessible Indian basics:
Dana Bazaar (Indian and Sri Lankan)
12215 Nebel Street, Rockville

Exit White Flint Metro. Follow 355/Rockville Pike North one block. Turn Right on Old Georgetown Road - go one long block. Turn Left onto Nebel Street and walk for about two long city blocks. It will be on the right in a strip mall.

Posted by: Rockville | January 24, 2008 7:27 PM

Now I shall show my age. As a kid, one of the first places I ever went to by myself was Woolworth's counter, and it was the grilled cheese sandwich, complete with the floppy pickle slices, and a root beer that i ordered.

now, I hardly keep bread in the house.

My current favorite GC is Swiss on caraway rye (who the hel came up with seedless?!) with mustard - and grilled onions if I'm not feeling totally lazy. And a coke.

Now I need to find a 24-hour grocery; I'm hungry!

Posted by: julie | January 25, 2008 2:22 AM

Ketchupgirl, I sometimes put ketchup on my grilled cheese sandwiches, too! Actually -- I don't put it on the sandwich. I dip the sandwich in the ketchup that's on my plate if I'm eating the sandwich with some french fries. (And I'm from Minnesota, too, so... maybe it IS just a Minnesota thing.)

Here's another great variation. Dill pickle chips. Just open up your grilled sandwich and slide a couple of those wonderful dill pickle chips into it. Dip in ketchup. Mmm.

I like the idea of using a Foreman grill to make the sandwich. I so love grilled cheese, but it's undeniably high in fat!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 25, 2008 8:08 AM

My favorite is basically a reuben hold the corned beef - so rye bread, swiss cheese, sauerkraut and a little bit of russian dressing. I love it!

I love all grilled cheeses but this is a particular favorite!

Posted by: Washington, DC | January 25, 2008 9:18 AM

My nephew lost his parents in a terrible accident when he was almost three years old.
When he comes to visit (he's approaching teen years now) I love giving his favorite-
grilled cheese sandwiches-- for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Whatever the little guy wants! Gives me great joy!
Loving Auntie

Posted by: Anonymous | January 25, 2008 9:52 AM

Posted this on the chat -- surprised no one else here does this. Grilled cheese -- whole wheat bread, any really sharp cheese, with fig spread on the inside of each bread slice, and sliced apples or pears.

Or, with spicy tomatillo salsa verde in place of the fig spread (the spicier the better) -- everything else same as above. Butter on the outside of the bread.

Posted by: anon | January 25, 2008 10:09 AM

I grew up with white bread, Velveeta or Kraft singles and butter. I usually use cheddar now because Velveeta (which I still have a jones for on occassion) melts *too* well--gets runny. And I often dip in ketchup (not catsup). I'm from Chicago, not MN, so maybe it's a north midwest preference. (I also like Velveeta inside two slices of untoasted white bread with *Miracle Whip,* a working class alternative to mayo back in the day).

Posted by: JD | January 25, 2008 10:49 AM

I, too, am a long-term lover of grilled cheese (how-ever & with whatever). A friend of mine, however, introduced me to a combination that seemed just odd enough that it required trying. Turns out it was something that was made for them over a campfire in scouts....

Grilled Peanut Butter and Cheese.

Sounds gross, but it works. You gotta use the plain basic American cheese (plastic works better), but it all just melts together into this wonderful gooeyness that you then dip into rasberry jelly. Only challenge is figuring out how to have the bread buttered on the outside and peanut-buttered on the inside without making too big of a mess!

Posted by: steph | January 25, 2008 10:52 AM

"Grilled Cheese Dad" a quick no mess approach:

Medium toast 2 slices of white bread
Lightly butter one face of each - these will be the outside faces
Three slices of the Kraft plastic cheese
10 secs in the microwave at 1/2 power
cut & enjoy

Posted by: single dad | January 25, 2008 10:54 AM

Muenster with some pepper Jack, on wheat or nutty oat. Even better: CHALLAH. Divine. I cook up a bunch and take to work for lunches.

Posted by: Nessa Z. | January 25, 2008 11:13 AM

Broil one side of white bread, flip it and put plain American cheese on it, cover cheese with a light layer of ketchup, and return to broiler.

You'll have a delicious stand in for pizza!

Great kid food.

Posted by: lbt | January 25, 2008 11:22 AM

I also dip my grilled cheese in Ketchup. I didn't even know anyone ate it without ketchup until I moved down to DC. I originate from near Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Maybe its a Canadian-US border thing?

Posted by: Billie | January 25, 2008 11:23 AM

'wichcraft (a terrific sandwich place up here in NYC) has a gruyere-caramelized-oniona-on-rye version that's quite good. Not sure how they do it because gruyere doesn't melt well but it stayed soft. There's also a restaurant in Hell's Kitchen called Say Cheese that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches--I like to customize mine with Muenster, aoioli and avocado on sourdough.

Posted by: NYC | January 25, 2008 11:27 AM

NEVER smash the bread unless you like it gummy. If you just turn the heat to low or medium-low and be patient, the cheese melts perfectly while the bread browns, and then flip once the cheese is thoroughly melted, the second side takes much less time to brown.

In my humble opinion. :-)

Posted by: LCS | January 25, 2008 11:35 AM

I use the veggie cheese slices that have little or no fat. They melt as well as the real thing and taste at least as good as any other plastic-wrapped slice.

Posted by: Clare | January 25, 2008 11:57 AM

I think the tomato soup serves the same function as ketchup. Dunk that baby! Also the best "toastie" I ever had was at the cheese counter at Harrods. Stilton and pear slices on whole grain bread. Yum. I'm still a firm believer in white American and white bread when I want comfort food, but for a special treat it is hard to beat the Stilton/pear combo.

Posted by: Karen | January 25, 2008 12:08 PM

My perfect grilled cheese is made with four slices of American or Cheddar on Texas Toast.

Posted by: LisaLuvs2Cook | January 25, 2008 12:13 PM

LOL! Growing up I always had "girl" cheese, while little brother would request "boy" cheese.

Posted by: Make mine cheddar | January 25, 2008 12:28 PM

Butter & toast ciabatai (sliced length-wise) in an iron skillet. Pile on thin slices of tart granny smith apples with thin slices of good swiss, emmentaler or manchego on top and pop under the broiler.

Thin slices of fontina with really, really darkly carmelized onions in the middle, on rye.

Thin slices of Jarlsberg on either side of a layer of sweet/spicy pickle chips (homemade by a friend), in between crusty sourdough or other rustic white-ish bread.

Fontina with fresh, coarsely chopped basil and thin slices of seeded tomatoes in between, on rustic white and grilled in olive oil.

My latest favorite condiments for grilled cheese are two jams: onion-garlic jam, and spicy apple garlic jam (quite chunky).

Posted by: Sue in San Antonio | January 25, 2008 1:03 PM

Great blog, Kim!

Grilled cheese sandwiches using rye bread, a slice of cheddar on one side the of the bread, and, the coup de grace, pimento cheese on the other.

Posted by: GU | January 25, 2008 1:31 PM

no question: grilled swiss on rye with sauerkraut. mmmmm

Posted by: cc | January 25, 2008 1:33 PM

Gruyere doesn't melt well? It's fully half the cheese I use in fondue, and it always melts beautifully...

Posted by: Divine Ms. K | January 25, 2008 1:36 PM

Thanks for this article. I'm a grilled cheese fan as well and the feedback has given me options on how to make one. My sister and I were in St. Maarten in 2000 and we had the best grilled cheese at the airport. It was made with gouda and some kind of flat bread.

Posted by: Valerie, Bethesda, MD | January 25, 2008 1:40 PM

I'm a gourmet grilled cheese kind of girl. Tomato Bisque soup with a grilled cheese sandwich -- vermont cheddar cheese on seeded whole grain gourmet bread from the "When Pigs Fly Bakery" in Kittery, ME...mmmm. I know what I'm having for dinner.

Posted by: Jen | January 25, 2008 1:46 PM

Provolone and bacon, sprinkled with a little thyme, on buttered hearty rye, dipped in tomato soup. Yum!

Posted by: Shaza | January 25, 2008 1:51 PM

I actually voted "what's the big deal." But now I feel hungry, like Tantalous, reaching for a gourmet grilled cheese, but there's nothing there! The sourcrout and Russian dressing combo sounds great. Memo to self: Read this blog AFTER eating lunch.

Posted by: Dave | January 25, 2008 2:30 PM

Swiss cheese on sourdough is the only way to go...

Posted by: GeraldWhite | January 25, 2008 3:20 PM

There are so many great twists on the grilled cheese in these comments -- can't wait to try some.

Grilled wheat bread, a little butter, two slices of white American cheese and tomato is my take-me-back-to-college-days comfort food.

When I'm feeling more adventurous, it's melted Brie on a toasted baguette with some fig or raspberry jam!

http://humblegourmand.com

Posted by: humblegourmand | January 25, 2008 3:29 PM

Interesting that your brother called grilled cheese girl cheese. When my younger son was quite small he would call girls "grills" Boys were boys and girls were grills.

Posted by: Deborah | January 25, 2008 3:46 PM

A word from a professional chef...
I've tried dozens of variations on grilled cheese over the years, from Soccer Moms to Michelin chefs. Some ingredients only you "foodies" would recognize. And the answer... They're all right. They're all good. Celebrate your imagination! And a word for those who keep bringing up the "Fat and Calorie" issue... (and I do have extensive training in nutrition)... Just eat it and enjoy; with extra butter. In today's high-stress environment, the benefits of something as soul-warming, relaxing and pleasing as grilled cheese far exceed the fat grams. "If it makes you happy, it's good for you." Bon appetit.

Posted by: Mike | January 25, 2008 4:31 PM

I think I'll have to go get my cholesterol checked from just reading this! Having said that, I prefer the old-fashioned Kraft American cheese slice on wheat bread, with a slice of ham, French's mustard, and butter on the outside, grilled in an iron skillet with a spatula so it is slightly mashed together. I grew up eating this and my mom just made me one the other day at her house :)

Posted by: Anonymous | January 25, 2008 5:42 PM

Grilled cheddar cheese with a bowl of tomato soup. Nothing better.

When I grew up, the grilled cheese of choice was sharp cheddar on multigrain with branston pickle.

Posted by: CntrvilleCitoyen | January 25, 2008 5:52 PM

The pride of the South: grilled pimiento cheese with bacon & tomato. On firm white sandwich bread.

Havarti with dill butter is good, too.

I use a cast iron griddle and a small cast iron skillet to weight the top.

Posted by: dynagirl | January 25, 2008 6:02 PM

I dip grilled cheese in ketchup, too, and I'm from Georgia, so I guess it's not an upper midwest thing.

Posted by: Atl | January 25, 2008 6:07 PM

I agree, a grilled cheese really needs to be just bread, cheese, and butter/oil. Nothing else.

Preferences:
Sharp cheddar and good, crusty sourdough
-OR-
American on white (only good in diners, bars, and greasy spoons)

But there are variations that I do love:

Tuna melt: wheat or sourdough, white tuna mixed with Best Foods mayo and French's yellow mustard, medium cheddar, buttered on the outside

Ham and cheese: ciabatta or dense, nutty wheat bread, your favorite capicollo or prosciutto, and smoked provolone (or use fresh mozzarella and add thick slices of tomatoes)

Posted by: oregonchick | January 25, 2008 6:59 PM

Last week I was sick, the first thing I thought about eating was a grilled cheese. Just thinking about it made me feel better.

Posted by: peri | January 25, 2008 10:08 PM

I think this column comes closer to absolute universal truth than anything I have ever read.

Only on thing .. the authentic soul-soothing GrChS is ... Velveeta. On a good wheat bread. Sorry to be so plebian but we're talking hard truth here.

Posted by: Chris Fox | January 25, 2008 11:22 PM

Grilled cheese with tomato is my favorite, and it can be with swiss or cheddar, and the bread has to be good stuff, but there can be a fairly wide range.
For my blast to the past guilty pleasure, I go to Sam's Cafe here and get a grilled cheese that seems to come right out of the 50s. delicious.

Posted by: cococo | January 26, 2008 10:41 AM

Whole grain bread
Cheddar Cheese
Curry Paste either inside or out or both.

Posted by: Bob | January 26, 2008 11:14 PM

My grandma always used colby cheese for our grilled cheese sandwiches, and made them in an ancient cast iron skillet with a missing handle. The bread varied but real butter was a must.

Posted by: Layton | January 26, 2008 11:36 PM

Cheddar, swiss and grilled tomatoes on sourdough french, with a very light touch of dijon mustard. the best.

Posted by: cheesy | January 27, 2008 2:10 AM

We dip in ketchup in our family so you can include some families from upstate NY/northern PA in the ketchup geography.

Posted by: Anne Green | January 27, 2008 5:47 PM

Hi folks!

My best recollection of grilled cheese was eating it at Providence Rec Center in Falls Church, Va... I grew up hanging out in there (still visit when I'm home) and I used to attack the bar for a daily grilled cheese. I guess at some point, I grew out of it, but then....that day when my good girlfriend made me one with get this: PUMPERNICKLE bread! yes! Use white American cheese and then dip in mustard (not dijon) and ketchup and you have a super delicious, almost gourmet grilled cheese! That's the way I eat mine now... Bye bye ot good ole white bread!

If you try it, enjoy!

B-
flanboyanteats.com

Posted by: FlaNBoyant Eats | January 29, 2008 10:05 AM

Grilled cheese with bacon, tomato and avocado - booeymongers in Georgetown makes this sandwich perfectly, and it is the perfect sandwich. American or cheddar for this one, though it is fun to go fancy on occasion.

Posted by: md | January 29, 2008 3:57 PM

Just had to add this in:

My ultimate comfort GC is on wheat, with butter, and 2 slices of the American plastic slices. But nestled in between the 2 slices are the long, dill pickle sandwich slices. Yum...

Fancier though, I have to say that sourdough with a sharp cheddar and some mustard and tomato... wow.

Posted by: Gotta Have the Pickle | February 5, 2008 1:10 PM

great homemade bread is best, havarti or cheddar is mandatory, add bacon or ham (with some mustard0 but you must have rings of raw vidalia onions to make it the ultimate. tomato soup, a coke and sweet gherkins round out the feast.

Posted by: naptown grilled cheeser | February 5, 2008 3:04 PM

if you visit Cleveland, check us out, we've got the cheese you're looking for!
www.meltbarandgrilled.com/

Posted by: josh melt | February 13, 2008 2:39 PM

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