Over the past couple of decades, cooks all around have racked up phenomenally good comfort food, from the creamiest macaroni and cheese, the fluffiest pancakes, and Mama’s best pot pie recipe.

We all love making these recipes, and they have become family favorites, and most certainly will be passed down generations as what home-cooking is all about.

Comfort food is a kind of food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone, whether specific to them or applies to a specific culture. Many are high in fat or sugar, substances that the body can process into temporary stress relief. It can evoke the same feelings of security or contentment we had when we were younger.

Food is more than food- it’s heart strings-it’s memory. The Palm Beach Post stated in a 1966 article: “Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called “comfort food”-food associated with the security of childhood.”

From chicken and dumplings, slow cooked pot roast, goulash or as Canadians call it “Chop Suey”, (one of those words that is “untranslatable”…French to English, so what do we do? Put a China-influenced name in it??? but so, so delicious!), meatloaf, or drool over Mama’s lasagna, and how can you deny her soup, rich broth, sliced carrots, celery, onions, and zoodles that bump it up a notch over regular chicken noodle. YUM!

Before the 70’s, comfort food had been the bland fare of the young, elderly and the ill. Decades later, the two words grew into an inescapable food fad, and now a half-century later, comfort food has become the trend that will never end.

By 1978, the most popular item, the grilled cheese has been billed as today’s newest culinary trend which is also the oldest. (Popularity ranks)

* 1st. American grilled cheese

* 2nd mac and cheese

* 3rd soups

* 4th desserts

This sandwich is a no brainer. There are times only a grilled cheese will do, a treat, like when you’re sick, Mama brings a cup of tomato soup and a grilled cheese, or you have a Saturday lunch, snack, late dinner, or after school treat. That’s when sometimes, that’s all one needs, a crispy, buttery, gooey with cheese, sometimes a combination of cheeses or ingredients of the day added, with a cup of soup.

Oh, how we love them! Again, two pieces of buttery bread, toasted until golden brown with ooey, gooey cheese inside. Oh, my, my…

They are economical and comforting, quick, easy and light, simple and so yummy, it’s a sandwich that puts smiles on faces of both kids and adults. Good for anytime of the year, for any occasions that went from after school’s favorite to gourmet indulgence. The simplistic sandwich is being remixed, revamped and redesigned in diners, pubs even high end restaurants.

It is a simple approach done miraculously right over the years. This trend morphed not just with American cheese used, people have been getting creative with different blends of cheeses, with bacon and tomato being the most popular add-ons.

The idea of grilling bread has been around for centuries. Who invented them? No one seems to know….

The earliest Roman cookbooks said to combine bread and cheese when eating dinner, more like a cheese and cracker thing, I’d say. The grilled cheese first appeared on menus in 1910.

In France, it was haute cuisine called the “Croque Monsieur”, toasted bread, cheese, and ham. They become part of our everyday menu in the US, in the early 1900’s. Later appearing in 1902 cookbooks, they were called “melted cheese sandwiches”, served in pubs, and dining establishments. In the 50’s, it began appearing in published cookbooks and assumed many names.

In 1933, the automated bread slicer became a valuable asset in commercial bread companies, they produced and sold more sliced bread loaves than whole loaves. During the great Depression, the cheese and sliced bread became a cost effective meal option to feed the family, serving open-faced “cheese sandwiches” to stretch out their food supply. Workers would get 2 slices of bread with cheese to make it more filling to sustain their energy in the mines.

During WWII, the Navy cooks followed a government issued cookbook that included a recipe for an “American Cheese Filling Sandwich”. It was then it solidified it’s place in the American diet.

Stepping up the game, in 1949 Kraft Foods developed prepacked sliced cheese that was shelf stable, easier than the “block” of cheese. This sliced cheese did not congeal like melted cheddar could, so it turned into the go-to-cheese. At this point, the grilled cheese carried many names from “toasted cheese”, “cheesy toasty”, or “melted cheese sandwiches”.

It’s hard to recognize cheese sandwiches now-a-days, you might ask “Where’s the Cheese?”, in between all the savory extras such as avocado, fried eggs, tater tots, pastrami and pulled pork, we almost go from the grilled cheese known as comfort food to a 4 course, buttery grilled, stack of multi-layered goodness.

Sliced white bread has been replaced with gourmet bread like sourdough or rye, or a crusty farm loaf to baguettes, and the more discriminating croissant. Bread has even been swapped out for waffles, pita and Naan bread.

There’s only one thing that hasn’t changed, there is no argument that the grilled cheese sandwich is comfort food at its finest.

It’s a wild, creative world out there people, all grilled cheeses might have some inherent value, but some are simply better than the rest, according to our taste buds. Besides being a very mature food, it’s versatility packs a foundation of a lot of really awesome innovative and brilliant combination of sandwiches yet, still the great American grilled cheese as we know it.

The Recipe:

The Best Ever Grilled Cheese

Spreading a mixture of mayo and butter on the bread creates a delightfully crispy crust with the well-loved, wonderful flavor of butter one expects on a grilled cheese sandwich.

Total Prep: 25 min. yields: 4

Ingredients:

6 tbs. butter, softened

8 slices sourdough bread

3 tbs. mayonnaise

3 tbs. finely shredded Parmesan

1/8 tsp. onion powder

½ cup shredded sharp cheese

½ cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

½ cup Gruyere cheese

4 ounces Brie cheese, rind removed and sliced

Directions:

1. Spread 3 tbs. Butter on 1 side of bread slices. Toast bread, butter side down, in a large skillet or

electric griddle over medium-low heat until golden brown. Remove.

2. In a small bowl, mix mayo, Parmesan, onion powder and remaining butter.

3. In another bowl, combine cheddar, Jack and Gruyere.

4. To assemble sandwiches, top toasted side of 4 bread slices with sliced Brie. Sprinkle cheddar cheese mix over the Brie. Top remaining bread slices, toasted side facing inward. Spread mayo mix on the outsides of each sandwich.

5. Place in same skillet and cook until bread is golden brown and cheese is melted, 5-7 minutes on each side. Serve immediately.

Kitchen Tips

* Do you love those crunchy, crispy bits of cheese that fall out of the sandwich and caramelized on the pan? Adding the Parmesan to the butter and mayo mix gives you a similar result.

* If you are feeling nostalgic for grilled cheese on soft white bread, create a grown-up version using brioche or baguette. Do start with a good hardy bread, for maximally awesome flavor.

* Use high quality cheese, sharp cheeses have lots of flavor, and don’t be tight with the cheese otherwise it will just be 2 slices of bread being teased by a slice of cheese.

* Be creative, you can put anything between two slices of buttery, grilled bread. I have put some combinations together and named them, my mind was playing with my sense of humor having fun. I also relished and loved combinations from my cookbooks as the ingredients were flying out of the pages and am sharing these with you as well.

Filler Samples:

*Cheeeeese-steak: shaved beef, red onions, peppers and pepper jack cheese, spicy mustard

*Cuban Wish: pulled pork, a slice of ham, dill pickles, la crema cheese spread, baby swiss

*The Beret: Brie, roasted peppers, sliced artichoke, salami, garlic aioli

*My Guinea: Mozzarella, ricotta cheese, sliced meatballs, mushrooms, onion and gr.pepper, marinara

*Eyeopener: scrambled egg, sausage, bacon, American cheese, green onions on grilled waffle

*Atlanta Mix: applewood smk. Cheddar, almonds, peaches, raisins, onion jam, creamy hot sauce

*Wes-inda-houz: Pimento cheese, white cheddar, avocado slices, tomato slice, fajita beef

*’Sconsin-Rd: Gouda, garlic-cream ch, muenster ch, sliced grn.apples, honey, Bratwurst

*HopCat: Mango, honey, cranberries, bananas, walnuts, Gruyere, garlic aioli

*Perdue-cluck: chicken tenders, cheddar, mozzarella, bacon, waffle fries, ranch aioli

*Tennessee-shuffle: sliced bourbon bacon, shaved turkey, cheddar, seasonal jam, buttermilk spread

*Calley-thunder: aged cheddar, beef brisket, baked mac and cheese,

*Melter-Skelter: salami, pickled green tomatoes, jalapeno ranch, BBQ potato chips, watercress lettuce

*Cheesehead-party: roasted carrots, red onions, ham, tomato, Swiss and cheddar cheese, pesto cheese

*Commodore: cream cheese, classic cheddar, roja salsa, pimento blend, sliced turkey, Poblano

*Beechers-Pike: cheddar and cottage cheese, roasted tomatoes, bacon,pork tndl, avocado, sprouts,

*Colorado-Bomb: yellow, white American, green chili, pork tenderloin, bacon, dill pickles

*Tupelo-Miss: Brie, Gorgonzola, sliced pears, onion marmalade, crab meat, rye bread

*Miami-Disco: bbq pork, pepper jack cheese, Southern bbq sauce, sliced jalapeno

*Louisiana-stomp: grilled chicken, fontina cheese, cole slaw on waffles

*NYC-walk: hot pressed pretzel, bbq brisket, chive, horseradish spread, provolone, aioli sauce

*DC-am-bite: scrambled eggs, bacon, caramelized onions, waffle fries, garlic spread

*Mini-GIJ-mate: Parmesan, Fontina, spinach, red onion, bacon, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, spicy mustard

*Yuppie: tofu, blue cheese, fontina, pine nuts, mixed greens

*Controlling-adult: bone marrow, onion jam, horseradish, fontina, roasted carrots

*Hungry-man: sliced meatloaf, mashed potatoes, Swiss cheese, onions, gravy

Happy Fooding! Happy Grill-Cheesing! Keep sending me your topic ideas, refreshing words and love. [email protected]

~and the last words~from Ina Garten~”Grilled cheese and tomato soup is the ultimate comfort meal”.

~.Title~ Coined from Liza Minnelli in the 70’s, when interviewed by Johna Blinn.

~Reference~ Food Fallacy~Stacy Wood.

Comments are not available on this story.