What Is a Cheese Dream?

I. Ong

A cheese dream is an American sandwich consisting of bread, eggs, cheddar cheese, and butter, with the option of adding other ingredients such as vegetables, fruit, and milk. Similar to a grilled cheese sandwich, it is prepared by heating the bread and dairy products over a pan on the stove. The rest of the ingredients are placed on top of a single slice of bread to create an open sandwich.

Cheddar cheese is typically used in a cheese dream.
Cheddar cheese is typically used in a cheese dream.

American publications mentioned the cheese dream as early as 1918, but this sandwich was not commonly prepared until bread and cheese became more affordable. Sliced bread and processed cheese became widely accessible at inexpensive prices in 1920, and made these cheese sandwiches an American favorite, documented as being served to the American Navy during World War II. The Great Depression in 1929 popularized the cheese dream in the United States as a cost-effective meal and comfort food. It was served in large amounts on semi-formal occasions such as Sunday dinners and meals with visitors. Variants were created that included the addition of ham and scrambled eggs, or spicy tomato sauce.

A cheese dream includes sliced bread.
A cheese dream includes sliced bread.

The cheese dream gave birth to the grilled cheese sandwich in the 1960s, when a second slice of bread was placed on top of the ingredients. This was seen as the cheapest way to make the cheese dream a more substantial meal. The grilled cheese sandwich and its cheese dream variant waned in popularity, but made a comeback in 1990. By the year 2001, an estimated two billion of these cheese sandwiches were consumed yearly by Americans.

Cheese dreams have varying recipes based on the added ingredients, but retain the same basic formula for its initial preparation. A cheese dream may be prepared by taking a piece of bread and spreading cheddar cheese on top of it. A mixture is prepared from eggs and milk, with the slice of bread being dipped in the mixture. Butter is melted in a pan to serve as cooking lubricant and to add flavor.

Once the butter has melted, the bread is placed in the pan and fried at medium heat until it turns a golden brown color. The cook may choose to add syrup if the sandwich is meant for a snack or dessert. More common variants are the addition of sliced tomatoes, mustard, tomato sauce, and herbs.

A variation of the Monte Cristo sandwich may be created by adding ham and turkey on top. Other culinary experiments with the cheese dream have included the use of Gouda and Swiss cheese on top of rye, pumpernickel, and brown bread. Chefs have also used more exotic trimmings, such as pear or apple slices with brie cheese or mozzarella respectively for a tart taste, or mozzarella and sundried tomatoes with herbs for a more Italian taste.

Sliced ham is sometimes added to the cheese dream.
Sliced ham is sometimes added to the cheese dream.

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