Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Love Grilled Cheese

The phrase "government cheese" was used disparagingly by critics of the Reagan administration to imply that Reagan's administration did not care about the needs of the poor. In point of fact, the Wikipedia article about that phrase says that such cheese had been given to poor folks ever since the 1960s, which (news flash to Democrats) was way before Reagan ever took office.

Processed American cheese was generally the variety on offer. My family never received government cheese, to my knowledge, but I liked American cheese a lot. Often, that was what one got when one ordered a cheeseburger or a grilled cheese sandwich in a typical diner in the Midwest, where I was raised. I later learned that I tended to prefer other varieties, like cheddar, longhorn and similar types. I liked those kinds because the cheese got stringy, in a nice way, when it was melted between two slices of bread.

I was reminded of grilled cheese just now when I checked my email, which included a link to a review of restaurants in Chicago renowned for their good grilled cheese sandwiches.

When I first moved to the Lawson House YMCA in Chicago, my room there had no kitchen. So I was pretty limited in terms of my weekly menu. I could eat at fast food restaurants like McDonald's, but McDonald's had no grilled cheese sandwiches.

I liked cheeseburgers, but sometimes I was in the mood for a plain old grilled cheese sandwich, which I'd made for myself quite often when I was a young man in Missouri. Lawson House later put small microwave ovens in the rooms of each of the residents, but a microwave oven is a lousy way to make a grilled cheese sandwich. The cheese needs to be melted, sure, but the bread also needs to be toasted. Toasters were verboten there, as were hot plates.

When I did a temp job assignment in an office complex out near the OHare Airport, I discovered a small restaurant there that actually had grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu. So I could satisfy my craving for such sandwiches on days when I was scheduled to work there. (I hadn't yet seen the review of other restaurants that served such sandwiches, nor had I heard of the chain of restaurants, based in Ohio, known as Melt.)

I eventually bought a little electric skillet which I used for such things as making grilled cheese sandwiches, but I had to hide it out of view whenever they had one of their scheduled room inspections. How ridiculous! A grown man treated like a toddler and forbidden from cooking basic food items if they could not be microwaved. They said in their lease that we were forbidden from owning any appliances that produced heat (which presumably included toasters).

I guess they had never tried to remove a light bulb that had been on for a while. I guess they had never heard of the toy known as an Easy-Bake Oven.

To say that I am glad that I no longer live in Lawson House YMCA would be a mild understatement, not just because of their idiotic policies about such things as toasters, but also because they stupidly accepted donated mattresses infested with bed bugs. I often awoke with painful bed bug bites on my hands and feet (and even on top of my head a couple of times). It felt a bit as if I was living in hell.

Thankfully, when I moved from Chicago to Bellingham, Washington in 2010, I did not bring my bedbugs with me. I did have other difficulties here, including several ministrokes, which might have happened even if I had not been so poor that I had to live at Lawson House. But the bedbugs and the stupid rules about toasters were thankfully a part of my past.

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