This will go down in history as the first time I have ever updated before 7am. There is a rooster crowing outside my window. Really!
It’s amazing how accustomed I have become to eating certain foods at certain times of day. Did mornings initiate some kind of massive branding campaign so that we’d all wake up thinking, “mmm, eggs!”? Did a cabal of coffee importers copyright the mid-afternoon© so that we’d all suddenly, and without warning, be overcome by an acute longing for espresso? And did the wee hours decide to go into business with Denny’s or what? I seriously could never figure that one out. I mean, how often have we found ourselves in that booth after three glasses of shoju and some horrifically uncoordinated dancing, just dying for a Grand Slam? I don’t get it. That’s enough food for an entire day, and you’re not even supposed to be awake.
Of course, these things depend entirely on where you are. It only took two weeks in Zambia for me to find myself ravenous for foods I’d never even eaten before going there (I’ve got three words for you, friends: nshima and chicken). It also depends on how old you are, which brings me to the topic I initially had in mind when I began this update at the “nnnggh I need toast right now” hour:
I was never big on sandwiches, mostly because it took me decades to get past my association of sandwiches with sogginess. Alas, my poor mother. She did what she could, but it would require industrial-grade chemicals for a sandwich to stay crisp after four hours in a plastic bag. I ate them (usually), but it was pure survival instinct that drove me to do so, and it didn’t take long for my distaste to undermine the noon/sandwich coalition. When I got to middle school, I was delighted by the cafeteria food because those apron-clad ladies actually did use industrial-grade chemicals — and we all know that teenagers love those. It took until after college for me to come to my senses and, once I had shed my taste for disodium EDTA, I was well positioned find myself with a hankering for protein squashed between two pieces of bread. Still, it was only last year that I started wanting sandwiches at lunch time, and that was because I was making them myself. Rare is the store-bought or restaurant-made sandwich that seems both appetizing and cost-effective. Besides, why buy your sandwich when you can make grilled cheese?
Grilled cheese is like a well-adjusted only child: it’s happy to play alone, but it also plays nicely with others. We had a surfeit of fruit at headquarters yesterday, thanks to a combination of backyard citrus harvesting and a trip to the supermarket, and now have a healthy little sage plant growing in the victory garden. And did you know that with a pear, a few sage leaves, and two slices of Port-Salut, you can make the best grilled cheese sandwich ever? Here, I’ll show you:
Pear, Sage, and Port-Salut Grilled Cheese
-two pieces of bread (preferably something that won’t shred during vigorous ingredient spreading)
-about 2-3 ounces of Port-Salut (or any semi-soft cheese)
-3-4 sage leaves
I’ve always wondered why they call it grilled cheese, because I don’t know how frying something in a skillet amounts to grilling. Whatever, it doesn’t matter: heat your skillet or nonstick pan over a medium flame. Slice your pear into 1/4-inch thick slices, running vertically along the fruit, and have a couple of slices of cheese ready. Here’s the messy part: slather some butter on the surfaces of your bread, turn them over, and slather a little honey on the other side of one piece (if you want — it helps things stick) and the cheese on the other. I use a knife to really spread the cheese on there, even if it means I get butter all over my hands. Put the sage leaves on the cheese, and arrange the pear slices on top of the leaves. You can use the whole pear, but I have no self control and eat half the slices before they even make it off the knife and on to the cutting board. This has the added benefit (you hear that? benefit!) of making the sandwich stick together a bit better, because the pears aren’t making it too hefty.
Now, slap that other piece of bread on top, honey side down and butter side up, and put that baby in the pan. It should only take two or three minutes for it to brown up nicely. Now, very carefully flip it over and fry the other side for the same amount of time. Hear that sizzle? That’s 1pm calling your name.