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Where has all the grilled cheese gone?

| Friday, September 20, 2019

Last semester, I basked under the beaming glow of the Castilian sun in historic Toledo, Spain. I spent my time stuffing my face with heavenly jamón ibérico and bought so much European chocolate that a local storeowner subconsciously checked his shelf to make sure my preferred product was available when he saw me walk in the door. But there was just one food item my aching heart missed more dearly than anything else: the greasy yet delectable grilled cheese sandwiches available at every non-breakfast meal in South Dining Hall.

When I arrived back to campus, I jumped for joy. I hopped out of my car and made like a track star to SDH’s beautifully drab brown doors. It was evening. Dinnertime. A smile a thousand miles long danced across my face as I swiped in and galivanted towards the grill area. Then I stopped dead in my tracks. My jaw hit the floor. My world came to a crashing halt.

French fries? Check. Weird char-grilled chicken? You bet. The veggie burgers who’s sight alone is sufficient to make me gag? Absolutely. The mystical “mushroom beef hamburger” rounded out the lineup. Something was missing. Something big.

“Wh … wh … where has all the grilled cheese gone?” I wondered aloud, sad and confused.

I waited for the cheesy goodness to return. Plot twist: it hasn’t. Now, I wake up in the morning and look out my window. The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. But I know it is a solemn time. For I am in mourning.

Yes, I know that grilled cheese is still available at SDH lunch. I guess it also might be available at North, but — while I do love my grilled cheese — I’m not about to venture to District 12 to figure that out. Perhaps I should take solace in the fact that it seems to be burger night every night now. My aging heart tells me that the lack of grilled cheese is good for my health; without my grilled security blanket, I’ll be forced to consider options, maybe even — gasp — a salad.

But gosh darn it. None of that is good enough for me.

You know why? Last semester I had a dream. In a moment of homesickness — or maybe actual sickness, jamón and chocolate didn’t always go great together — I closed my eyes and let a vision fill my head. I was sitting in South Dining Hall, studying the faux “Last Supper,” a freshly-made grilled cheese filling my plate.

Now, I am only left to sing Fantine’s tragic refrain: “But there are dreams that cannot be. Like there are storms we cannot weather.” On two counts.

I have not lost all hope. Perhaps some day, the grilled cheese will be restored to its rightful spot between the veggie burgers and the char-grilled chicken. Maybe that day will come soon. I hope. I pray. But if it doesn’t? Well, then I will live out the rest of my days with a piece of my soul missing. I will taste the dinner-time grilled cheese in my dreams, then break out of my slumber into the cold dark reality my life has become.

And to the grilled cheese station: thank you. Thank you for being there when all the options were lacking. When the only other option was some god-awful excuse for sustenance. Thank you for making my hands so disgustingly greasy that I had to be careful not to touch any textbooks, lest I stain them. In short, thank you for the memories. Perhaps we will meet again someday. But, until then, fare thee well, oh sweet and salty grilled cheese.

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About Tom Naatz

Tom is a senior at University of Notre Dame. He is majoring in Political Science and Spanish and is originally from Rockville, Maryland. Formerly The Observer's Notre Dame News Editor, he's now a proud columnist for the paper.

Contact Tom