Grilled Cheese

As a scientist, I can make a radio into a blender and use coconuts and palm fronds to send morse code signals to passing ships, but I'll be damned if I can figure out how to fix the SS Minnow.  (Image from flickr dot com)

As a scientist, I can make a radio into a blender and use coconuts and palm fronds to send morse code signals to passing ships, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to fix the SS Minnow. (Image from flickr dot com)

I read that scientists in Britain have determined how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich.  Considering they’re scientists, one might expect that they would find a way to put the recipe into some sort of complicated formula that most of us couldn’t easily understand.  They did.  Considering they’re British, one might also expect that they would somehow include boiled meat and lukewarm beer in the recipe.  They did not.

I don't expect you to be able to completely understand this, but to simplify, this complex equation uses the square root of infinity to quantify the parameters of a good sammich.  (Image from flickr.com)

I don’t expect you to be able to completely understand this, but to simplify, this complex equation uses the square root of infinity to quantify the parameters of a good sammich. (Image from flickr.com)

I don’t doubt that following the recipe carefully could result in a tasty bite, but could something as subjective as a grilled cheese sandwich could ever truly be classified as perfect?  Chances are, it will only be perfect in the eyes of some, while too cheesy or too bready or too dark or too light in the eyes of everyone else.  I think if my long suffering wife made me one on an occasion when I was particularly famished and wanted nothing more than a grilled cheese sandwich, I might think it was just perfect, even if she skimped on the cheese as she has been known to do.

As it turns out, the Brits make grilled cheese open-faced under a broiler or toaster oven and have been known to call the finished product “cheese toast” or “cheesy bread”.  The scientists weren’t even testing real grilled cheese sandwiches!  Be that as it may, a scientific study is a scientific study, so they must be right.

Some of us might question why scientists are wasting their time on such nonsense in the first place.  The perfect grilled cheese sandwich seems kind of trivial when there are diseases to cure and CSI evidence to process.  Not every Bunsen burner jockey is necessarily the greatest mind of his or her generation.  Logic dictates that someone has to graduate last in their class at Scientific U.  I would hope that the really smart scientists are all working on important stuff, while the dullards are analyzing sandwiches and dissecting what are purported to be Sasquatch turds.

That's not a scientist; it's an actress doing a mediocre Betty Page imitation.  (Image from fanpop.com)

That’s not a scientist; it’s an actress doing a mediocre Bettie Page imitation. (Image from fanpop.com)

If I were one of the grilled cheese scientists, I know how I’d answer when asked what it is I’m working on.  I can just picture my wife and I mingling at a neighborhood Christmas party in some quaint British pub.  She’s wearing a classic little black dress and some pumps*.  I’m in my white lab coat complete with pocket protector and slide rule.  In my hand I hold a beaker containing precisely 275 mL of chilled vodka with +/- 2 olives.  Every so often, when faced with a lull in the conversation, I lift the beaker up to the light and inspect it, staring intently at the clear liquid through my safety goggles, with my head cocked to the side.  I take a sip, purse my lips and eventually swallow, my face reflecting deep scientific thought.

With that kind of grandstanding, it’s only be a matter of time before one of the impressionable young wives in attendance would ask what it is I work on in the lab.  I startle slightly as her question pulls me from my vodka-analysis reverie.  Lowering the beaker, I give her some sort of overly complicated answer.

“I’m currently concentrating on the effect of external thermodynamics on semi-solids in composites of gluten and yeast-based substrates,” I say with a gentle but slightly condescending smile.

“Oh my!” the woman stammers, no doubt confused, but probably more than a little impressed.

I continue on, in what might appear to be an attempt to help her understand.

“You see, the proportions required to maintain the desired ratio of moisture in the center to crystalized gluten molecules on the exterior is critical to the finished product.”

The woman, though totally confused, can’t help but show signs of excitement in the presence of my obviously giant science-brain.

My wife, who’s now affecting something of a Cockney accent, has had enough by this point.

“Look ‘ere, luv!” she says.  “Don’t let ‘im impress you too much.  What ‘e’s tryin to tell you is that ‘e spends all day in that lab of ‘is tryin’ to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich!  Sure ‘e wears a lab coat, but ‘e ain’t splittin bloody atoms all day.  ‘E’s nothing more than a flippin’ short order cook dressed like a scientist!”

The woman will look back over at me with a bemused look, then back at my wife.

“So your telling me ‘e’s makin’ cheese toasts in the name of science?” she’d say to my wife.

The two of them start grinning and I know I’m in trouble.

“Tell you what, cap’n; if you start workin’ on figurin’ out which type of cleanser works best on cleanin’ the loo, you can set up your lab over at my ‘ouse!  Me and yer missus will be out in the kitchen, eatin’ grilled cheeses and drinkin’ a few pints if you need us!  I’ll be expecting that me tiles’ll be gleaming white, they will”

My wife and the woman are now cackling and appeared to have bonded in their desire to emasculate and ridicule me.  I slink over to the bar and dump more vodka into my beaker, sloshing way beyond the 275 mL mark and ruining the integrity of all the data I’d gathered up till this point.

I may not have a great deal of research to back this up, but it looks like this will be a long night.

*Loyal readers will be quick to point out that my wife is known to abhor pumps and prefers more sensible footwear irrespective of my begging her to choose otherwise.  Further, what little accent she has is closer to  Philadelphian than it is to British.  Neither my wife nor myself have ever been to the UK.  Both my wife’s attire and the location of this fantasy were editorial decisions on my part.  Despite my choices, I still ended up looking like a knucklehead in my own fantasy.  I wonder if there’s a scientific reason for that.

26 responses

  1. Firstly, I don’t know who told you we call it “cheese toast” or “cheesy bread”, but we call it “Cheese on toast”. That article you linked to was an American article so they changed the story by calling it “Grilled cheese” but if you look at a British report of the same story, they call it “Cheese on Toast” – http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/08/16/cheese-toast-formula-recipe_n_3767922.html And your American site couldn’t even find an appropriate picture to put with the article, choosing a closed grilled cheese sandwich picture, rather than one, as you pointed out, of the open type that we have. That’s just lazy reporting on their part. There, now that I’ve had my say I’m going to go and boil some meat and warm up some beer for my lunch…

  2. Unfortunately, I was sipping my coffee while I read this and ended up spraying it across my desk by the time I got to the end. I think my laptop is now doomed, but dare I say it was worth it?? This is great and a delight to read.

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