We’re down in San Antonio, arriving just in time for lunch. Richard said we had to go to the Burger Boy, a long time San Antonio institution, and when I asked one of the locals what to order he said I should opt for the Working Man combo — a double burger, crinkle-cut fries, and a tub of diet soda big enough to float a battleship — and to order it with “real” Kraft American cheese. I’m a working man, so of course I took his advice.
The double burger was succulent, the “real” American cheese nudged it into the spectacular category — so much so I was briefly tempted to wolf down another — and the crinkle-cuts were deep-fried to perfection. Fully sated, I exited the ’50s and headed back into modern America.
Let’s say you are 10 years old on a cold winter’s day. For hours, you’ve been sledding with your brother and your friends in the neighborhood. Your stocking cap is soaked with sweat and a while ago one of your friends put snow down your back that has long since turned to an ever-present, icy wetness. Then you hear the dinner bell your Mom rang to call the kids in your family to dinner. You grab the rope to your Flexible Flyer and start the long trudge home, pulling the sled behind you. And as you walk, you start to think about what your Mom might be serving for dinner and begin hoping that it will be your favorite winter meal.
In my case, the favorite winter meal was tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. The tomato soup was Campbell’s, of course, and made with “whole milk.” (I’m not even sure they had skim milk or 2% milk or the other milk options in those days.) The soup was served piping hot with lots of crumbled saltine crackers to make it even more fortifying. The sandwiches were made with Kraft American cheese on Wonder bread that was lightly buttered on the outside then grilled so that the bread was browned and crunchy and the cheese was perfectly melted and oozed when you took your first bite. The sandwiches were served hot and were cut diagonally, the better to facilitate dipping the sandwich into the steaming soup. Mom would call it a “nourishing meal.” I just thought it tasted great. This was a meal that never disappointed!
Last night we had tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and the meal is still as good as I remember it. There were some differences, of course. We don’t buy “whole milk” anymore, so the soup was made with 2% milk, and I haven’t eaten Wonder Bread in decades, so the sandwiches were made with whole wheat bread. But the soup was still Campbell’s, and it tasted as rich and warming and creamy as ever. The toasted and grilled sandwiches still had the satisfying crunch and the melty goodness, and sinking part of the sandwich into the soup and taking a bite still yielded one of the the greatest taste combinations ever.
In my book, this is the definitive winter comfort food meal.