Host a Grilled Cheese Grill-Off
Want to hear six words that make us happy? April is National Grilled Cheese Month! Sure, that means you can eat one every single day (why not?!), but we thought it would also be fun to put together a quick history lesson and then encourage a little friendly competition.
More than just simple, gooey, comfort-food-in-hand, this sandwich has earned its place in both our hearts and our history books. Whether a meal of grilled cheese was helping citizens pull themselves up by their bootstraps, or giving our military the strength they needed to battle enemy troops, this is a sandwich that has nourished Americans, body and spirit, for generations.
While the tradition of combining cooked cheese and bread has been popular since ancient times, the grilled cheese, as we’ve come to know it, is commonly thought to have originated in the 1920s when “the father of sliced bread,” Otto Rohwedder, patented a machine capable of slicing loaves and wrapping them in waxed paper. Suddenly, distributing white bread was easy and affordable. Shortly before that, James L. Kraft had revolutionized processed cheese, ensuring that it could be transported long distances without spoiling.
When the Great Depression hit, the grilled cheese sandwich, with its now affordable and easily acquired ingredients, became a mainstay for down-on-their-luck Americans. Even the most hard-up citizens could usually afford this inexpensive meal. The sandwich was thrust into the spotlight again during World War II. It became a favorite of the Allied armed forces when Navy cooks whipped up countless “American cheese filling sandwiches” in ships’ kitchens as instructed by government-issued cookbooks.
Fast-forward to 2015, and the grilled cheese can be found in establishments ranging from diners and cafeterias to five-star restaurants around the country. Even though this sandwich has evolved in a lot of ways, it has stayed true to its roots in others. No matter how you might customize it, at its core, this meal is just a combo of melty cheese and toasty bread, which means whipping them up at home is as quick and easy as it’s always been.
HOST A MELTDOWN SHOWDOWN
To honor our heritage and the history of the American grilled cheese, this April we recommend channeling some competitive spirit and challenging your friends and neighbors to an epic sandwich-making battle. Host a grilled cheese grill-off, and ask your friends and neighbors to bring their ingenuity and appetites to the table. Choose judges, draw up scorecards and get grillin’!
GO GARDEN VARIETY FOR VICTORY
Juicy tomatoes, torn basil leaves or slices of ripe avocado…whatever flavor profile you prefer, fresh-from-the-garden produce choices make an ideal add-in. Gather an assortment of fresh fixin’s and encourage your competitors to bring their own favorite fruits and veggies as well. (Of course, they should feel free to bring their own meats, cheeses, breads or condiments, too!)
FORM ALLIANCES FOR FIREPOWER
You could go one-on-one, but we say create teams, mixing people who don’t know one another well. You’ll be amazed what kind of inventive flavor combos your friends will come up with when they combine their skills and ideas. After all, the P-51 Mustang, which combined an American airframe with a British engine, became one of the most influential and highly regarded warbirds of all time. Who knows, your friends could change the course of grilled cheese history forever!
Whether it was due to lack of funds, or wartime rationing, Americans have often needed to get creative in the kitchen. If you’re worried that this competition isn’t enough of a challenge for your friends, impose rationing restrictions on their recipes! Meat, lard, shortening and oils, cheese, butter, margarine, processed foods and dried fruits were all rationed during WWII. Choose one or more ingredients and restrict their use. It’ll require competitors to rely on that good old allied ingenuity!
- Whether you’re still trying to master the basics or you’re looking to up your grilled cheese game, CHECK OUT THIS HANDY GO-TO GUIDE.
- While Corelle® dinnerware hasn’t been around quite as long as the grilled cheese, it isn’t too far behind. Read the History of the Stylish and Durable Dishware HERE. We recommend serving up sandwiches for the judges (and guests) on WINTER FROST WHITE, which pair simplicity with elegance—kinda like the grilled cheese itself.
- Before you begin, elect your judges, decide on a scoring system and make up scoring sheets. Or go democratic and simply hand out voting ballots to include everyone in the decision-making process.
It’s the spirit that matters, not the details, so however you choose to honor the great American grilled cheese this month, share the heartwarming history of this admirable sandwich with others as you celebrate. And share your sandwich, too…you can always make another one!
YOUR TURN: Up for the challenge? What would your can’t-miss concoction consist of? Please share your favorite tips or add-ins!