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Grilled Cheese, the King of the American Comfort Foods

“Making a sandwich of bread and cheese does not take much forethought, but deciding to grill the sandwich until the cheese melts within is the stuff of dreams”-Author Unknown. Nothing beats grilled cheese and a cup of tomato soup on a cold day. This is one of America’s go-to meals when we want something of comfort. There are no specific dates or creators of the grilled cheese. Some believe the concept started in France in 1910 with the creation of the incredibly delicious Croque Monsieur. If you have not had the privilege of eating a Croque Monsieur or Croque Madame... you, my friend, are missing a LOT. Back to the grilled cheese. I suspect the dish started with the invention of a young Canadian-American entrepreneur named James L. Kraft. Kraft was a partner in a wholesale cheese company, Shefford Cheese Company, until 1902 when his partners forced him out. Stranded in Chicago, with $65 to his name, Kraft purchased a horse and carriage to sell cheese to local grocers. He soon realized that his cheese would quickly spoil due to a lack of refrigeration at restaurants and stores. Four of his brothers joined him in Chicago to provide better distribution. However, they could not go long distances, and the cheese consumption had to be within days of cutting the cheese wheel. By 1915, Kraft invented a way to manufacture a blended, pasteurized cheese that he called "processed cheese." The pasteurization allowed for cheese distribution across the country without spoiling. He patented his invention in 1916 and soon began selling Kraft cheese nationwide. The original dish, once called toasted cheese sandwiches, used grated cheese with a binder, such as mustard, and toasted the sandwich between two fresh slices of buttered bread. Significant historic moments in US history played a part in developing the "Grilled Cheese." It was not until World War I that the sandwiches made their mark. The US Army purchased 6 million pounds of Kraft's cheese to make easy and delicious meals for the troops that met government nutrition standards. During the Depression, families found that processed cheese was economical, and grilled cheese was a filling meal. During this time, the school cafeterias were taking the same approach. However, they added something else to the meal—canned tomato soup. The soup, along with the sandwiches, provided the necessary nourishment requirements to the school children. Many of the children, at the time, had gone without food at home; therefore, the school lunch became an essential meal for them. The grilled cheese sandwich has made its mark in classic American comfort food. The Kraft organization recognized that this sandwich was a moneymaker, so in 1949 they introduced the "Kraft Singles,"; individually wrapped slices of processed cheese for use with grilled cheese and other sandwiches. • Approximately 3 out of 4 people who buy sliced cheese make at least one grilled cheese sandwich per month. • Grilled cheese sandwiches with a bowl of soup is the most common meal pairing. No surprise, tomato soup is the most popular soup to serve with the sandwich.

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