Monday, April 23, 2007

Merry Grilled Cheese Month!

Saturday's Lunch
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I feel it’s my duty to spread the word about it being National Grilled Cheese Month. Hurry! Only one week left. Thanks to Sphincter for alerting me!

You might think that upon finding out it was NGCM, I would have dropped everything and fired up the griddle to start celebrating, but, alas, the fridge’s cheese drawer was emtpy—save for a moldering rind of Parmesan. (I think it was Parmesan but, given its geriatric age, who could say for certain?)

I told myself that it was just as well, since I was recently informed that my cholesterol level is 253 (!), and I’ve been trying (but only when convenient) to avoid cholesterol-laden foods, e.g., cheese. But we all know that as soon as you decide to eliminate or limit eating a certain food, you suddenly want to eat it all the time.

By Saturday, I’d figured out a rationale for a modest NGCM celebration. A) I had yucky menstrual cramps that were making me cross. B) It was raining. C) My doctor’s office never instructed me to avoid cholesterol—they simply reported the number to me, so I guess they weren't that worried, so why should I be? D) I’d walk to the grocery store to get the cheese—exercise lowers cholesterol, right? E) Studies have never definitively linked high cholesterol to cardiovascular disease, according to some Web site I read somewhere.

So I walked over to the grocery store and bought the smallest wedge of two-year-old sharp cheddar I could find (only enough for two sandwiches--no need to go hog wild) as well as some Sea Salt and Vinegar Kettle Chips, which are cholesterol-free, all natural, manufactured in Portland, and totally good for you. Then I went home, buttered some oatmeal bread, and created the masterpiece pictured above.

It was pretty darn tasty, but nothing can touch the unorthodox grilled cheese sandwiches of my youth, invented by my father and refined and perfected by myself. These sandwiches were made in a horrifying old waffle iron that, I believe, had been picked up for a song at a garage sale or may even have been one of my parents’ wedding presents. At any rate, this waffle iron had seen a lot of service.

This was our magic formula. Place a slice of bread, preferably Russian Rye,* on the waffle iron. Place a generous layer of New York Herkimer** cheese on the bread. Put another slice of bread on top. Then lay one or two partial slices of New York Herkimer on top of the top slice of bread—this was one of my innovations. Turn on the waffle iron and close the lid on the sandwich.

The heat and the weight of the waffle iron soon caused the cheese to ooze out the sides of the sandwich and to seep up through the bread—this seepage was key, because it would eventually encase the sandwich in a shell of Crispified Ooze™. My innovation of placing cheese on top resulted in extra Crispified Ooze™ that made the sandwich even crunchier and more delicious. Also key, of course, was the neato waffle pattern imprinted on the sandwich. The best.

But here’s the gross part. We never cleaned that waffle iron. Sure, we might have chipped off any Crispified Ooze™ that would have burned the next time around if we left it, but we never washed the waffle grids with soap and water. I don’t even recalled wiping it down with a damp dishrag or anything. We just left all that “cheese oil” on it forever. We euphemistically referred to the waffle iron as being “seasoned.”

And we’re all still here, not once (as one might have expected) having succumbed to stomach cooties caused by the weird cheesophilic microorganisms that surely must have made their homes all over that waffle iron.

*Russian Rye was a brand of rye bread that came in an odd, blue-plaid wrapper (not a pattern you normally associate with Russia). I haven't seen a loaf of Russian Rye bread in ages.
**New York Herkimer is what my dad called all extra-sharp white cheddar cheeses. I don't know why.

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