Have you ever tried to make a grilled cheese sandwich with hard butter? And the butter, when you try to spread it on the bread, just rips it to shreds. It's like you're scraping paint off the clapboards of your house to get it ready to be primed. I hate that. But I also hate 'softening' the butter in the microwave because then the underbelly of the stick is goop and you have to dig out its insides to get at the unspreadable soupy goodness.
I think you know what I'm talking about.
Well, I usually use this technique- if I happen to have hard butter when I'm making grilled cheese- where I just throw a (big) slab of butter onto the hot griddle and then let it melt. I then take my two slices of bread and soak up the butter with the outsides of each slice. Are you getting my drift? And then I construct my sandwich on the griddle, making sure no cheese is sticking out.
Well, I was confronted with this grilled cheese conundrum up in Minnesota one summer, and without a microwave as even an option to soften the butter, I simply started to make my sandwiches by throwing large slabs of butter onto the griddle. The problem was I was making a sandwich for this lady...
And she almost had a heart attack as she watched from the farm table she was sitting at five feet away from the stove. She thought I was going to give her a heart attack. She thought I was trying to kill her. She thought I was going to butter my pan with slabs of butter and then ALSO butter my bread with slabs of butter- an outrageous crime to the heart.
"No, no, no Ann. I'm just melting the butter and then soaking it up with the bread because I can't spread the hard butter onto the bread."
"Oh, oh, okay."
It was the only meal I ever made for her. And I think she truly enjoyed it, after I settled her heart. Up in Minnesota my mother-in-law called her mother the Kitchen Nazi. She kind of took over the space when she was up there and Suey just let her. She always made her own meals so I don't really know why she let me make that grilled cheese for her that day. But I'll never forget it. Not ever.
G.G. died in her sleep two nights ago. Her bones ached. Her heart ached. It was time.
I see her now though. She is hovering in a kitchen. I see her shifting utensils around. She is opening a refrigerator and meticulously emptying a dishwasher. I think I even see her making a grilled cheese sandwich. Her way.
Ann Mendsen Simmons
November 27, 1919-January 26, 2010