“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!

Please share with your friends, thank you!

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

  1. David,

    I have never heard of either food combo, but they sound interesting! Peanut butter gets used in satay sauces, so I would imagine that mix might actually work. I have also heard of peanut butter and olive sandwiches, but I have not tried it…And the popcorn in milk definitely has my attention. I will make sure to try it next time I pop a batch of popcorn! Thanks!

  2. Great read! And boy did it bring back some interesting food memories from my late 60’s childhood. I live in Texas now (and have for over 3 decades) but grew-up in Wisconsin and spent many summers visiting my Texas relatives. And being who I am, food was a prominent feature of many pleasant, adventurous memories. Two interesting twists on rather common “kids” foods might be worth a try for those willing to step out of the ordinary.

    The first is the peanut butter sandwich. Try adding several very thin slices of a sweet onion, Vidalia would work great, on top of the peanut butter (sans jelly). I remember I didn’t even like onions back then and to add that to one of my favorite lunchtime meals was cruel and unusual punishment. But I was a guest, and as my Mom taught me, I had to at least try it and it was terrific! Sweet, crunchy and tangy.

    The second is salted popcorn. My dad turned me on to this one. Take freshly popped pop corn (I can’t remember if it was buttered or not) and put it in a large glass, 12 ounces or larger, pack it in and then pour ice cold milk over the top until it’s full. Eat it with a spoon. It’s wonderful!

    I can’t say I’ve eaten either of these delights lately, but the blog sure brought back great memories and smiles.

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