April 12 is Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day

(Photo: Jeffrey W./Wikimedia Commons)

(WBAY) — It’s cheesy, but in honor of the national day of observance we looked into the history of this American staple and wedged in as many facts as we could:

Each year, Americans eat 2.2 billion grilled cheese sandwiches, according to consumer research firm NDP Group Inc.

Bread-maker Sara Lee says 86 percent of adults in the U.S. eat at least one grilled cheese sandwich each year.

Three-quarters of people who buy sliced cheese make at least one grilled cheese sandwich each month.

The first accounts of a sandwich made with cheese and cooked bread are from Ancient Rome.

In the early 20th century, the “melted cheese” or “toasted cheese” sandwich was popular in America, but at that time it was typically a piece of bread topped with shredded cheese.

A machine for commercially slicing bread and wrapping it in wax paper was patented in 1928. Later that year, Kleen Maid introduced pre-sliced bread. That same year, Kraft introduced Velveeta cheese.

Sliced bread and processed cheese were both were affordable and economical, and the Great Depression solidified the melted cheese sandwich’s staple status in American homes — and beyond. In World War II, government-issued cookbooks taught Navy cooks how to make “American cheese filling sandwiches” in ship’s kitchens.

Kraft introduced individually wrapped cheese slices in 1965.

The term “grilled cheese” first appeared in the 1930s, according to The Food Timeline, including a reference in the “Los Angeles Times” in 1932 to a luncheon on January 20 featuring “grilled cheese sandwiches, salad of mixed greens, baked bananas, orange cake, tea.”

Sara Lee says a second slice of bread didn’t become a standard part of the sandwich until the 1960s, but the Watkins Cook Book published in 1936 by the Watkins Company of Winona, Minn., included a recipe for “cheese between two thin slices of bread. Butter outside of sandwiches lightly, brown in oven” — the grilled cheese sandwich we know and love today.

The most popular additions to grilled cheese sandwiches, according to Sara Lee:

  • Bacon
  • Ham
  • Tomato

We asked our Facebook followers for their own unique twists ‘wich make this classic even butter — uh, better:

Darlene V. said: “Bacon. Pickle. Only real cheese… and avocado is also good.”

Dawn B. said: “Use cheddar cheese and bacon. I like to bake it in the oven. That’s the way they do it at public schools and I love school grilled cheeses.”

John H. said: “Cheddar cheese and a slice of sweet onion grilled together.”

Elizabeth W. said: “Grilled pimento cheese with mayo.”

Yum! Click here to comment on our Facebook post to tell us what you like with your grilled cheese.

Sources: The Food Timeline, HowStuffWorks.com, Huffington Post, National Public Radio, Priceonomics, Sara Lee Aresano Bread

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