There once was a sandwich with cheese,
That quickly brought me to my knees.
Toasted, roasted. Oh sweet bliss.
I’d be completely remiss
Not to say, I’ll take two please.
~Ode To Grilled Cheese
Courtesy of Clean Eats, Fast Feets
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to joke that “I’m at the age where food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact, I’ve just had a mirror put over my kitchen table.” Masterfully delivered in his inimitable perennial loser persona, that joke followed the thematic formula of his landmark 1980 album “No Respect.” With that joke, the pudgy bug-eyed comic unabashedly hinted at the importance of food porn in his life without actually uttering the term. Fittingly, Dangerfield, who based his entire comedy routine on getting no respect, isn’t even given the respect and credit for first suggesting the notion of food porn.
In fact it wasn’t until 1984 that the term “food porn” was coined when author Rosalind Coward wrote in her groundbreaking book Female Desires: How They Are Bought and Packaged: “Cooking food and presenting it beautifully is an act of servitude. It is a way of expressing affection through a gift… That we should aspire to produce perfectly finished and presented food is a symbol of a willing and enjoyable participation in servicing others. Food pornography exactly sustains these meanings relating to the preparation of food. The kinds of picture used always repress the process of production of a meal.”
Today food porn is both an art and a science, perhaps best exploited to its utmost by an enterprising advertising industry. The Huffington Post believes “food commercials sexualize food, likening it to a lewd pastime that could replace sex altogether.” Artfully arranged culinary concoctions are presented in print ads and television commercials designed to entice viewers to make a run to nearby fast food chain emporiums which promise to assuage our lascivious cravings for deliciously depicted Big Macs, Whoppers, Quesalupas and Footlongs from Subway. “Real” foods almost never look anything like the posed foods depicted in media.
Were it not for the remote control which allows us to change channels during commercials, many of us would be powerless against the unrelenting enticement of the food porn which dominates the airwaves in thirty second segments during prime-time. Alas, Hollywood still manages to ensnare our attention by depicting food porn in all its mouthwatering, hunger-inducing, gotta-have-it-now glory. Television shows and movies elevate simple food to true food pornography, as sensual and stimulating as any carnal act. The raw sensuality and unadulterated allurement of food is perhaps most effective when the construction of sandwiches is aired in close-up.
Who can ever forget Adam Sandler lovingly constructing “the greatest sandwich in the world” for Paz Vega in the 2004 comedy-drama-romance Spanglish? Relying heavily on high-quality ingredients, the sandwich–constructed from a rustic white bread, Monterey Jack cheese, mayonnaise, butter lettuce, fresh tomato slices, bacon and a fried egg over-easy–even manages to pull the attention of every XY-chromosome paired, red-blooded viewer away from the sultry Spanish siren.
Then there’s the scene in the movie Chef in which Jon Favreau’s character constructs a simple grilled cheese for his ten-year-old son. Though the scene has our rapt attention from the moment butter is slathered on a slice of bread, the first sizzle on the grill evokes salacious salivation. When the sandwich is sliced in half and a cascade of molten cheese slowly oozes out from between perfectly golden slices of crisped bread, our wanton lust reaches a crescendo. We have to have a grilled cheese sandwich now!
Such was our recent experience during our nth viewing of Chef. Alas, we were unable to duplicate the magic of carefully orchestrated food porn. We decided to leave it to the pros, determining we’d visit Cheesy Street the next time it was in the neighborhood. Cheesy Street, one of the metropolitan area’s most revered food truck virtually since its launch in September, 2013, has elevated the grilled cheese from simple comfort food to creative and innovative grilled cheese you will crave. Cheesy Street is a mobile purveyor of food porn, featuring a rotating selection of grilled cheese deliciousness along with fresh soups and desserts.
Fortunately for us, Cheesy Street is a frequent guest of the Westside Marble Brewery not too far from our humble abode. Cheesy Street is easy to spot with its shamrock-green countenance and long queues of hungry diners waiting to place their order. The Westside Marble Brewery is a perfect host. Place your order at the food truck’s order counter and you can saunter over to the comfy confines of a very friendly watering hole where your order will be delivered in due course. If you don’t partake of adult beverages, the Brewery offers excellent non-alcoholic libations (and they’re not the usual Coke or Pepsi suspects). Ostensibly they all pair well with grilled cheese.
Only five grilled cheese sandwiches graced the menu during our inaugural visit, each one a tempting combination of flavor and innovation. We did a double-take at seeing The Dubliner, a grilled cheese sandwich sharing the name of one of my favorite burgers from The Placitas Cafe. Described as a “St. Paddy’s Special” constructed from “decadent Irish Cheddar cheese with tart green apple slices,” this is a superb version of grilled cheese food porn made even more sultry with bacon. Dubliner Cheddar has a distinctive flavor, imparting a sweet, lingering aftertaste. Despite a firm and slightly dry texture, it melts nicely. The richness of the molten Dubliner pairs magnificently with the tartness of the green apples and the smoky saltiness of the crisp bacon.
My Kim’s choice, Spaghetti Grilled Cheese, is aptly reflective of her playful nature. As described on the menu this sumptuous sandwich “sounds funny, tastes amazing.” Between two golden-hued slices of bread grilled in garlic butter you’ll find mounds of sausage spaghetti topped with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Strands of spaghetti escape their crispy confines on all four sides, but unlike with their plated brethren, you won’t have a red sauce mustache from slurping them up. If you’ve always enjoyed the combination of spaghetti and garlic bread, you’ll enjoy this Italian inspired sandwich.
Few food pairings go as well as grilled cheese and tomato soup. Cheesy Street’s homemade tomato and basil soup is not only soul-warming and comforting, it’s healthy, always vegetarian and gluten-free. It’s not especially thick or creamy, but it does accentuate the acidity of tomatoes and the brightness and freshness of the basil very well. This is the type of soup that transcends the seasons; it’ll be good any time of year and with any type of weather.
Cheesy Street’s version of Irish Cream Bread Pudding is surprisingly good, especially considering it’s served in a Styrofoam cup. What makes it uniquely delicious is just how much of the bread pudding is caramelized. Biting into those crispy edges we initially thought were burnt bread was akin to biting into bread pudding candy. Texturally, the contrast between the soft, eggy bread and the caramelized edges is an enjoyable postprandial experience, a fitting way to complete a meal of luscious food porn.
April is National Grilled Cheese Month. There’s no better way to celebrate this momentous month than a visit or ten to perhaps the metropolitan area’s best purveyor of creative grilled cheese deliciousness. It’s a good thing food porn isn’t illegal because it’s out in the open at Cheesy Street.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
LATEST VISIT: 13 March 2016
# OF VISITS: 1
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET: Irish Cream Bread Pudding, Tomato-Basil Soup, Spaghetti Grilled Cheese, The Dubliner with Bacon