Gosh, until recently I assumed everybody grew up eating grilled-cheese sandwiches accompanied by a steaming bowl of canned tomato soup. Alas, no.
Twenty, 30 and 40-somethings are unfamiliar with this warm-and-fuzzy indigenous comfort food due to several generations of fast-food-oriented moms and dads indifferent to handing down tradition, opting instead for pre-made convenient, machine cuisine.
Otherwise most of us adore the traditional American icon. As a youthful, freckle-faced short-order line cook, I made a bazillion of them. It was not unheard of to add thin slices of ham and tomato. Our family unit was weaned upon Mom’s crispy but gooey, skillet-browned version made with slabs of Velveeta jammed between slices of aggressively buttered white. Dad died of a massive coronary in 1964 before anyone associated poor quality food with chronic disease.
What’s not to like about a mouthful of oily oral delight? Well, for starters: heart disease, diabetes, useless calories and superfluous tonnage. Before preparing the golden-brown square again with white bread, butter and Velveeta or Kraft singles, consult your tired heart and beleaguered pancreas. Nutritionally bogus white bread spikes blood sugar and encourages diabetes. White bread contains nothing of any nutritional significance — the model for the industrialized American diet of dead food. Your mind, body and mojo deserve better.
Velveeta cheese, contrived in 1918, is concocted from milk-fat, whey, sodium phosphate, alginate, sodium citrate, apocarotenal, annatto, enzymes, benzoate and — oh yeah — cheese culture. America’s lust for gobs of gooey cheese on everything is largely responsible for the super-sized plague of diabesity in today’s America. I have some insensitive acquaintances who treat me like a leper for not eating full-fat cheese. “What are you, a Pinko?” However, after surviving a battle with terminal heart disease, for the sake of tradition I see neither logic nor good sense in tempting fate in the face of irrefutable American Heart Association research.
The FDA classifies Velveeta gunk as pasteurized “processed” cheese spread. If you encounter it, be polite but flee hastily. A responsible cardiologist can inform you of the dreadful health outcomes resulting from eating full-fat dairy. Once performing research, I called Kraft HQ to ask them what they put into their slices; I got the run-around and an insincere scripted response but no intelligent answers. They wanted to know who I was and exactly why I needed the information. We can put these damaged folks in their place by not buying their products and by supporting local food suppliers who nurture morals and ethics.
Substituting ingredients, however, renders the grilled hero a wholesome, pleasantly satisfying lunch without sacrificing flavor. My new-and-improved, grand kid-approved version employs Smart Balance margarine, zero-cholesterol Galaxie Soy Cheddar Cheese slices (they melt just like real cheese) found in nearly every grocery and Ezekiel bread from the freezer section of your grocery. If you don’t turn on the floodlights to make a big deal of the change, it might fly under the radar. Be cool.
Red-and-white labeled, brand-name soups contain astronomical amounts of salt and MSG; plus the interior lining of canned foods from sea to shining sea contain BPA, a powerful carcinogen. According to the FDA, 17 percent of the American diet comes from cans. Many have an epoxy liner made with Bisphenol A (BPA), which mimics human estrogen and is linked to breast cancer and early puberty in women. How charmingly ironic when Campbell’s insanely comes out with a public relations, pink-label version supporting breast cancer research. Fear not, my hungry open-minded friends. Pacific brand organic, boxed soups at the grocers await your warm, selective hand. Their variety of full-flavored, clean and safe products is widely accessible.
Prepare the classic sandwich in the traditional manner. Apply Smart Balance to the bread, lay the two pieces of whole grain bread butter-side down into the pre-warmed skillet, apply one slice of cheese per half and gently cook both sides at once over medium heat. This saves energy and reduces cook time. At this time I usually sprinkle some ground pepper, sea salt and fiberlicious ground flax seeds for the Omega-3 EFAs and efficient peristalsis. Please consider serving the deliciously satisfying, warm, gooey tradition with carrot and celery sticks, radishes or broccoli florets instead of a highly salty pickles and chips. Your temple will be thrilled.
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