Does this matter?
You might be thinking, “Why should I even care?” I feel you, but let me break it down for you and tell you why it’s important to me. While I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I fell in love with this culinary masterpiece, I recall devouring different versions during those hot school lunches. My mom and grandma served it to me often, paired with a piping hot bowl of tomato soup. They called it “toasted cheese,” as they should…because it makes sense!
The Great Debate
For years, I have been engaged in a battle that originated with my first opponent, most likely saying, “Wait, what did you say? It’s grilled cheese. Come on, you don’t put it in a toaster!” I probably responded, “You don’t put it on a grill either!” My beautiful wife, the most recent contender in this ongoing dispute, continues arguing the same point.
The Origins of Toasted Cheese
The history of toasted cheese can be traced back to the Ancient Roman Empire. They would take bread, cover it with cheese, and toast it over an open fire. It was called “Caseus torridus,” which in Latin means “toasty cheese.” As time passed, the sandwich made its way across Europe and continued to be enjoyed by people in various forms. In the 1700s, the toasted cheese sandwich evolved and became known as “Welsh Rarebit” in England. It was made by mixing cheese with beer, mustard, and seasoning and serving it on toast.
Quick Fact: Charles Strite invented the modern, pop-up toaster in 1919. Yup, way up der’ in Minnesota! There’s a reason most people need help to overcome the correlation between the two. If you’re reading this, you have only known the modern toaster. Ready for the spoiler, people made toast before the toaster.
The Origins of “Grilled Cheese”
The term “grilled cheese” wasn’t used until the 1960s, when it became a popular fast-food option for many Americans. Before that, it was traced back to a simple typesetting error and a diner called The Jacks Coffee Shop in North Carolina. They boasted a “griddled cheese sandwich” on their menu since 1938. When they hired a printing press in 1943 to reprint their menu, they used “Grilled” to conserve letters, space, and money. How’s that? The width of a single word is what led to this madness.
Fun Unrelated Fact: George Stephen went on to create the first modern BBQ grill in 1952; he was a welder at Weber Brothers Metal Works in Illinois. The Weber was never intended to take over the Toasted Cheese Business. Ask them; their phone number is: (800) 446-1071
Settling the Debate
Now comes the question of which term came first: toasted or grilled cheese? The answer lies in the history of the sandwich. Toasted cheese has existed since the Roman Empire, while grilled cheese was only introduced in America in the 1920s. Therefore, toasted cheese came first. However, it is essential to note that “grilled cheese” has become more widely used than “toasted cheese” in America and is now the most common name for the sandwich. Did you read that? Yes, it is most common. This is one of many examples of such a great debate. I mean, we have “bubbler vs. water fountain.” right?
The Cheesy Variations
Regardless of what you call it, there’s no denying that a toasted cheese sandwich or grilled cheese is a tasty and easy meal that many can enjoy. The sandwich can be made with different types of bread, cheeses, and even meats or veggies for added flavor. Some popular variations include bacon, lettuce, and tomato (BLT) grilled cheese, classic toasted cheese with tomato soup, or grilled cheese with mixed cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, and mozzarella, or my favorite, the cream cheese, pepper Havarti.
Toasted Cheese, Grilled Cheese – there’s no denying that we all love savoring a buttery, crispy, and melty sandwich. The history of both terms is as rich as the flavors of our sandwich. So, whether you call it toasted or grilled cheese, the taste really matters. So next time someone picks on you for calling it a “Toasted Cheese” sandwich, you can tell them that the term has ancient roots. And if you’re still unsure, remember it’s the cheese that’s the star of the sandwich – crispy or grilled – and that’s what counts.
Fun Tip: If someone calls your sandwich by a name you disagree with, the answer is simple. Label them as Karen, cancel them, and delete them as your friend on Facebook.