Bread and cheese is one of the most satisfying culinary combinations of all time, and one which has stood the test of time.
It’s the ultimate portable food – both real-life shepherds and fairytale adventurers always carry a crust and a hunk of cheese wrapped up in their spotted kerchiefs.
But cook it and it’s something else entirely. The humble cheese sandwich is transformed from a mere hunger stopgap into a thing of melting beauty and textural sensation, alternating as it does the crisp crunch of toasted bread with the pliant ooze of molten cheese. The words ‘toasted cheese’ conjure warming images of dozy afternoons in front of the fire: the sum of its parts adding up to far more than a snatched snack to get you through to dinner. Heck, it can even be dinner. Students often survive on little else for three years or more. It’s also the perfect antidote to winter drizzle, guaranteed to stop kids’ grizzles in their throats and turn them instead into docile and pleasant creatures. My mother has a stock of variations on the theme she’d pull out on stormy weekends indoors when our moods threatened to turn as bleak as the weather. So when ‘melts’ first appeared on café menus I had to laugh: it seemed cheeky to sell something so basic. Then there was the toasted ciabatta thing – an updated version of the takeaway bar toastie, with fancier bread, fancier fillings than cheese and pineapple (and fancier prices to match). But it’s so delicious; why quibble with a winning formula?