April is National Grilled Cheese Month, as numerous food sites and blogs remind us. The origin of this designation is shrouded in mystery, but our entire research department is working to bring you the facts on this month long obsession with melted cheese on bread. Other highly significant and related dates are April 12, National Grilled Cheese Day, and April 20th, the Grilled Cheese Invitational.
Why do we observe these dates on our blog? Because The Nicer Slicer is an excellent tool for making all kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches. Thinly sliced bread grills faster and a slicered sandwich contains half the bread and half the butter of a regular grilled cheese. Besides, who doesn’t love some version of this food?
Poking around in cyberspace, I found there is a deep wellspring of emotions associated with grilled cheese sandwiches. Take cheese, bread and a fat, heat them together and enjoy the ultimate comfort food. Some people wax poetic about their childhood memories of eating them. Others love to experiment with the three fundamental ingredients and ways to combine and cook them. Is skillet grilling better than oven baking? Does shredded cheese melt better than slices?
The possible combinations appear to be endless- this site lists 659 recipes. New York City sports a growing grilled cheese food truck industry. For an updated take on presentation style, see this mixed platter of grilled cheese and oven dried tomato crostini. Tips on how to prepare cheese and grilling techniques are offered. Here is a cheeky review of the best wines to accompany grilled cheese, and a link to the allegedly “Best Grilled Cheese in the U.S.” For the adventuresome, a month’s worth of variations on grilled cheese recipes to make at home.
However, there is a dark side to our cultural love affair with grilled cheese sandwiches: it has become a competitive sport.
On March 13, 2013, Takera Koboyashi broke a grilled cheese eating record by ingesting 13 sandwiches in one minute. He had risen to fame in 2006 by eating 53 hot dogs in 10 minutes. He went on to repeated victories, but was arrested in 2010 for rushing the stage even though he didn’t compete that year.
The Grilled Cheese Academy features a recipe contest with cash prizes and touts itself as being “dedicated to the pursuit of grilled cheese excellence.” Then there is the 11th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational which takes place in Los Angeles on April 20. This cookoff features 200 competitors, professional and amateurs alike. This event was started by Tim Walker over a decade ago among friends and has grown into "an almost scary pursuit of perfection in a Grilled Cheese Sammich" with regional contests all over the country.
So stay tuned. We’ll report back when we find out how, when and why this humble sandwich was elevated to rock star status. And we’ll let you know who wins the Grilled Cheese Invitational and recipe contests! Happy grilling.