Back in the 1940s, long before I’d ever heard of a panini, my grandma made a grilled cheese sandwich that was pressed flat by – a waffle iron.
My paternal grandmother lived in rural Vandalia, Ohio, a two-hour drive from our home in Cincinnati. Grandma worked as a cook in a large Dayton (Ohio) high school and brought home huge wholesale-size cartons of food. On one of our trips, she introduced us to Velveeta cheese. The only cheese we had at home was what we called “rat’s cheese” which came in thin slices from the butcher shop wrapped in white paper. Mother used it in her macaroni and cheese and we had it with Ritz crackers and Pepsi on the rare occasions when we had guests come to play 500 rummy.
What fun it was when Grandma pulled out a 5-lb. box of Velveeta cheese, a loaf of bread and real butter (Grandma never used anything but real butter and cream) and made sandwiches for us on her 1930s era waffle iron. My little sister and I were fans immediately, so when we went home, Grandma sent along a big box of Velveeta and the old waffle iron.
During summer vacation, after sleeping late, my sister and I would come downstairs to the kitchen table to find the waffle iron, a loaf of sandwich bread, margarine and Velveeta cheese. Since we were combining breakfast and lunch, we were allowed to make as many sandwiches as we wanted. There was nothing more delicious. The cheese melted through the waffle indentations and sometimes got crispy. The sandwiches were hot, melty, crisp and delicious. We each ate 3 or 4 servings of what we called “toasted cheese sandwiches” and probably kept Mother short on bread all summer.
I still have the original waffle iron but don’t trust the electrical connection. Instead, we make our sandwiches on a 1980s model waffle iron with heat regulator and non-stick surface (showing a little age itself).
My daughter and I don’t use Velveeta any more. We enjoy using a variety such as Fontina, cheddar, mozzarella, Havarti, etc., sometimes several kinds mixed together, with good bread and butter.
The sandwiches are as delicious as ever, but we limit ourselves to just one apiece for lunch. And the luckiest person is still the one who gets a little bit of the cheese that oozed out onto the grill and crisped.