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By now, the cheese sandwich has become irreversibly identified in the popular imagination with the phenomenon of weblogging (blogging), and therefore the evolution of the humble lunch item is worth following along with the evolution of the blogosphere itself. Case in point, the seven-dollar cheese sandwich consumed today by the Duchess of Kensington (no, she is not really a duchess, but she is from Kensington, California). The occasion was the "Monet in Normandy" art exhibit at San Francisco's Palace of the Legion of Honor, a handsome replica of the original Hôtel De Salm in Paris. The venue was the lovely cafe with a garden terrace. I realize, of course, that the gorgeous setting in which the cheese sandwich was consumed was worth something, so I was not totally surprised that it would cost more than the cheese sandwich one might be served, say, at a Woolworth's lunch counter. (Does Woolworth's still exist? Do lunch counters still exist?) Nevertheless, the management of the Legion of Honor cafe must have realized that seven greenbacks for a cheese sandwich could appear somewhat steep, unless the cheese sandwich were enhanced with value-adding ingredients. And so, these cheese sandwiches were not filled merely with cheese, but had apple slices added. Not just any old apples, mind you, but crunchy, tart, pie-ready Granny Smith apples.
As everybody knows, apples are good for you. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Stuff some apples and some ground-up chicken parts into a sausage casing and you have a truly healthy sausage, unlike the kind that is made of ground-up pork. (At least that's what we do and believe in Northern California). By that logic, the managers of the Legion of Honor Cafe have not only transformed the humble cheese sandwich into a pricy gourmet specialty, they have turned it into health food. Cuisine worthy of the Duchess of Kensington. And it gets even better. The Duchess' cheese sandwich was made with cheddar, an iconic American cheese (not to be confused with "American Cheese," which is not really cheese.) Put together cheese and apples and you start to think of apple pie with a slice of cheddar on top: the quintessential symbol of the United States of America, the world's only remaining imperial superpower. Based on the 2004 election, close to half of us Americans probably feel uncomfortable with our status as citizens of an imperial superpower, nevertheless few of us would repudiate apple pie. If patriotism is indeed the last refuge of scoundrels, then apple pie is the last refuge of the American patriot.
We must, however, give credit where it is due: to a formerly glorious imperial superpower, which may be the originator of the value-added cheese sandwich, where they call it the croque-monsieur, and which contains, not apples, but sliced ham. I realize that French citizens of today, or at least their elected officials, are enthusiastic not only about cheese, but about anything that's value-added, especially the value-added tax. The first croque-monsieur, however, was reportedly served in a Parisian cafe on the Boulevard des Capucines in the year 1910, according to the Larousse Gastronomique, who should know. Unlike the apple-slice cheese sandwich nibbled by the Duchess, the pork-laden croque-monsieur is not fare suitable for observant Muslims, Jews, or vegetarians, but for apostates like myself, if I were blogging from Paris today, I would be eating a croque-monsieur as I write this. Now on to the question, has the seven-dollar (5,53 Euros at today's exchange rate) cheese sandwich arrived in France? I don't what they charge for a croque-monsieur at Le Dôme, La Rotonde, Brasserie Lipp, Les Deux Magots, or the Closerie des Lilas, if indeed they serve the humble dish at such places, but this website informs me that one can be had (scroll down) for a mere 1,80 Euros.Permanent Link to This Entry | | | Technorati Tags: Cheese Sandwich
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