The Unremarkably Remarkable Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Call it whatever you like–hot cheese sandwich, cheese melt, grilled cheese, cheese toastie, jaffle–but the hot cheese sandwich is consumed in many parts of the world. Who doesn’t like gooey melted cheese–solo or a mix of different varieties–oozing out between two slabs of crisp hot golden-brown bread for breakfast, lunch or dinner or even as a late-night snack? You can make it as humble or as fancy as you can be bothered to. I often make grilled cheese sandwiches for weekend breakfasts. Joe adores them.


Tosta mista is a signature Portuguese ham and cheese melt that is a staple in local cafés across the country.


We’ve been up less than half an hour at this point. Joe looks a tad more sprightly here as Una and I had been up till three in the morning sharing a bottle of vinho verde and then running two doors up to a bar for some white port before hitting the sack.


Tosta mista is your typical comfort food, not particularly remarkable–we’re talking about a slice of everyday ham and a slice of everyday cheese sandwiched between two slices of generously buttered everyday white bread that have been pressed in the hot grill–but you still desire it every time you see it on the menu and hence order it and are excited to have it.


Always the matching coffee cups and sugar sachets.

SAMSUNG CSCUs, pretty much in what we slept in the night before, tucking in, in this tiny café a few doors down from our air bnb apartment located in the Alfama district of Lisbon. The tostas are hot and buttery, the coffees strong and we slowly wake up as we chew and drink and listen to the local ladies chatter away at the next table.


9.8 euros = 12 U.S. dollars = 13,000 Korean won for four coffees and three grilled sandwiches.


Although unremarkable, it’s these comfort foods that I usually miss when I return home from vacation. With the goods we smuggled back from Portugal, we were able to capture a version of some of the meals we’d had while there.


Like this tosta mista with cheese and smoked chouriço (probably Portugal’s most popular sausage) I made us for breakfast on our first weekend back. I sprayed the breads with olive oil instead of butter.


Crisp toast, melted cheese, salty smoky sausage that I fried over a little heat to render the fat which makes the cured meat taste even better.


The taste of food on the palate is subjective and, in many cases, linked with specific memories. So, already, this is not just a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s Tuesday-morning-backstreets-of-Alfama-one-early-September-morning-of-2014  on a plate.


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