Dear Grub Street,
I’m hoping you can help settle a debate: A co-worker and I had a long, quasi-heated debate over the definition of a grilled cheese sandwich. The star of any grilled cheese sandwich is the cheese. Now, if you were to introduce a piece of meat, say ham for example, this would no longer be a grilled cheese sandwich, correct? The introduction of meat automatically negates the grilled-cheese moniker. This simply is a ham-and-cheese sandwich that happens to be grilled. Even if there is more cheese than meat … it is a “ham-and-cheese sandwich, easy on the ham.” I strongly feel that I am in the right here, but we trust you Grub Street. I could be wrong, but it’s highly unlikely.
Your friend is wrong, and you are right. A grilled cheese sandwich is the summit of American vernacular cooking, an inseparable triptych of white bread, processed American cheese, and soft-spread margarine. Add or alter one single element and the purity (and the definition) would be diminished. As we have written in the past, the grilled-cheese-and-bacon sandwich may well be our favorite sandwich ever, but there is no doubt that it’s a hybrid, not its own grilled gestalt. Your dogmatism on this matter is completely justified.