“Tea and Saltines…Grilled Cheese with Grape Jelly” or “My Grandmother was a Food Fusion Pioneer”

A friend recently said something which triggered a favorite childhood memory: that of sitting at my grandmom’s kitchen table, the two of us dunking saltines in hot tea. I loved spending time at my grandparent’s house. We only lived about 10 minutes away, so I spent many a day sipping tea and dipping saltines.

I have many fond food memories from that time of my life. When I was younger my grandmother still had a milkman deliver her milk and ice-cream – Breyer’s ice-cream – the original Breyer’s. It does not taste the same to me today as it did back then. I’m sure they have changed the recipe now that it is distributed country-wide. Or perhaps part of the taste lies in the memories…Whenever I spent the night she would offer me tea and ice-cream just before bed. We’d eat the ice-cream and then she’d bring out a cup of tea to warm us up. It was the play of cold against hot, yin vs. yang…a sort of balancing act.

My grandmother was a food fusion pioneer. ‘Tea and Saltines’ was only the beginning. One of her most innovative combinations was grape jelly spread on a grilled cheese sandwich. I never knew it was her creation until I went to college. I grew up eating them and never had had a grilled cheese any other way…the first time they offered grilled cheese sandwiches at the dining hall I asked where the grape jelly was. The cafeteria woman looked at me like I was crazy. “Grape jelly?” she asked, “Why do you want grape jelly? We put that away after breakfast.” Indignant, I turned to my fellow dorm buddies and asked, “Who doesn’t put out grape jelly for grilled cheese sandwiches?” It was at this point I noticed those around me eyeing me with looks of utter confusion, soon followed by grins and chortles – at my expense! In that moment I had what Stephen Covey would call a ‘paradigm shift’. I realized that I was the only one present who had ever eaten a grilled cheese sandwich smeared with grape jelly. I was astounded…and a bit taken aback. The flavor combo was a bit too overwhelming for them to even try it at first, but I am proud to say that by the end of the semester most of those around me were eating their grilled cheese sandwiches with a smear of grape jelly [insert smug satisfaction here].

So today I sit here, sipping my tea and dunking my saltines, remembering my grandmother and what a wonderful woman she was. She had a smile for everyone and a special twinkle in her eyes. And she would have loved the food offerings available today. I just wonder what combinations she would have created…I’m sure they would have been divine!