How Did We Get the Grilled Cheese Sandwich?



Some three-quarters of people who buy sliced cheese make at least one grilled cheese sandwich a month. While similar recipes are mentioned in Ancient Roman texts, today's notion of the grilled cheese is commonly traced back to the 1920s, when Otto Frederick Rohwedder — considered "the father of sliced bread” — invented a bread slicer that made distributing white bread easy and affordable. Shortly before that, processed cheese had been patented by James L. Kraft, an entrepreneur whose revolutionary pasteurizing process ensured that cheese wouldn't spoil, even when transported long distances. By 1914, J.L. Kraft & Bros. Company opened its first plant in Illinois. Of course, this "factory cheese” wasn't considered a delicacy. It was, simply, a cheap and scalable product. From there on out, both sliced bread and processed cheese went full steam ahead. During World War II, Navy cooks prepared countless "American cheese filling sandwiches" in ships' kitchens. In the 1940s and '50s, these were usually served open-faced and consisted of one slice of bread topped with grated cheese. In 1949, Kraft Foods introduced Kraft Singles and supermarkets began stocking them in 1965. Also around that time, the second, perhaps most important, piece of bread was added on top, likely as a way to make the sandwich more filling, and the modern notion of a grilled cheese sandwich was born.