Wednesday, August 10, 2011


One of the quintessential school lunches that I loved as a kid was grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. The grilled cheese was white bread and Kraft's Singles (which has no business calling itself cheese, but makes a grilled cheese like none other), fried in butter. The tomato soup was red salt from a can. And to top it all off, it came with chocolate milk.

It was heaven.

It still is.

These days, I can't imagine that schools would dare serve this stuff to their students and call it a "lunch". More like a premature serving of hypertension. And yet, the combination of grilled cheese and tomato soup is still embedded in my mind as the equivalent of Mac 'n Cheese from a box, or whatever you think of when it comes to food that's terrible for you but hits all the right emotional chords.

I still make grilled cheese, and I still make tomato soup, but it's marginally healthier, in part because I rarely make them together, but also because the grilled cheese is usually made with whole wheat bread, real cheese, grilled in a sandwich press, and might even have a tomato slice or two melted in. The tomato soup is made with real tomatoes, fresh herbs, and one or two charred red peppers.

Grilled cheese sandwiches are called "tostis" by the Dutch, and oddly enough--or perhaps, it should be expected, as the Dutch are a people of sandwiches--they are more refined here. You can have brie-walnut-honey tostis, or salami-mozzerella tostis, with all kinds of fillings melted into the cheese. The bread is spread with butter before grilling, but it's not smothered, and if you're especially hungry, the Tosti World makes theirs with three slices of bread, and two layers of filling. They are not served with tomato soup, unless you're at a sit-down place. And in any case, Dutch tomato soup is sweet and contains meatballs (horrors!), and is all wrong for a tosti.

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