"What's for lunch?" Joey shouted as the backpack from Germadore landed in the corner by the back door.
"Gruyere on rye with scallions, cottage cheese and beets," his mom answered, sawing into the fresh loaf of warm French bread. A sense of humor was as good as dessert in her book. She knew the forthcoming reaction and had already pulled the sharp cheddar from the fridge.
"Aw, mom, can't we ever just have Velveeta and normal bread?" Joey whined.
"Plastic isn't edible or digestible." She smiled and rubbed his buzz cut. "And you're not NORMAL. Wash up, it'll be ready in a minute. How'd you do on the spelling test?"
He was out of earshot already heading down the stairs for the basement workshop. He'd never miss a chance to fiddle with the train set or build a thingamabob.
Hot French bread sliced thin and layered with sharp cheddar and mozzarella cheese was an old family favorite; the secret was the chopped salty olives and sun-dried tomatoes tucked secretly in between the two cheeses.
"Bring up the brick when you come," she called down the stairs. "Your dad took it for something." The famous brick, wrapped in foil, made the perfect press for smushing the sandwiches flat.
Joey appeared at the top of the stairs holding the heavy brick and a new contraption made from rubber bands, paper clips and popsicle sticks.
She scooped up the brick, inspecting its foil covering. "Let me guess, under the corner of the dryer?"
"Nope, on top of the humidifier," Joey said, pinching a handful of cheese and turning to stir the tomato soup on the stove.
She had the brick covered with new foil by the time he returned, ready for him to smush the sandwiches. Participation in the kitchen was strongly encouraged at Joey's house and he was always thick in the middle of it. No matter what the project was.
His request, "grilled cheese, please," was easily fulfilled as Fridays were usually baking days for Mrs. J. Better yet, it meant some pretty good cookies after school for those of us lucky enough to be Joey's neighbors.
I don't think my best friend knew how lucky he was to be able to go home for lunch, or even cared. Undoubtedly his lunch would beat out our brown bag P., B. and J.s.
It was always great fun to see what invention Joey would bring back from his lunch. This time it was a rubber-banded chalk saver for our first grade teacher, Mrs. G. She, of course, rolled her eyes upward and thanked him for the thingamabob. But for me the real gift was learning the secrets about those fabulous lunches Joey's mom made each and every day.
Mrs. J's Grilled Cheese
Makes 6 small sandwiches
- 12 slices from fresh baked French bread
- 2/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2/3 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- 6 green olives, pitted and chopped
- 6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- Butter, as needed
- Assemble sandwiches with olives and tomatoes buried in the middle of the two cheeses between the bread slices.
- Butter a seasoned griddle or pan and heat over medium heat. Place sandwich on pan and let brown. Add a little more butter, flip, and smush with a foil-covered brick. Cook until crisp, browned and the cheese is melted.