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The History of Grilled Cheese

While humans have been combining bread and cheese for centuries, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the American grilled cheese sandwich was born. The story starts in 1915, when James L. Kraft invented a way to make blended, pasteurized cheese that could be distributed throughout the country without spoiling. He called it “processed cheese” and sold it in two varieties – bulk cheese and grated cheese. Early grilled cheese sandwiches were called “toasted cheese sandwiches.” They were made by mixing Kraft’s grated cheese with a binder like white sauce, salad dressing, or mustard, then spreading the mixture over two slices of buttered bread, and finally toasting the whole sandwich. During World War I, the US Army purchased 6 million pounds of Kraft’s cheese and by World War II, Navy cooks were making “American cheese filling sandwiches” for servicemen. Depression-era families also used large amounts of Kraft’s cheese. Since it made for a cheap and filling meal, toasted cheese sandwiches were popular choices for home meals and school lunches alike. The popularity of these early grilled cheese sandwiches continued after the Depression and World Wars ended. In 1949, Kraft foods introduced Kraft Singles; the individually wrapped slices of cheese made it even easier for families to make the now-classic grilled cheese sandwich. Today, grilled cheese remains a popular food among children as well as a comfort food for adults. There are even gourmet versions available at restaurants all across the country!

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