Full Stomach, Fuller Heart
(an occasional series)
I really should write about “turkey with all the trimmings. After all, it’s the American Thanksgiving meal. And I do love it. But Thanksgiving means tons of preparation. And most of my food-associated memories are about comfort foods, SiBY (Simple-but-Yummy) dishes you can fix with minimal prep (or even none, in the case of take-out). So, as wonderful as “turkey with all the trimmings” is, it doesn’t qualify as comfort food.
Tom & Chee (tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches)! No American food combo so epitomizes SiBY as tom & chee. I even associate it with being sick. Wait, isn’t that bad? Nope, it’s comforting! As a kid, it meant I got to stay home from school and watch Rocky & Bullwinkle while mom fixed me tom & chee. Later, as a college guy, I did it for myself. What could be easier when it was raining felines and canines than heating up a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup and smash-grilling a massive amount of cheddar cheese between two slices of bread? (A proper grilled cheese sandwich is as flat as that favorite old vinyl record you still listen to.)
I associate tom & chee with romance, too. My college acting teacher assigned me a scene with a former teen beauty queen. Oh, and it featured a kiss. My first thought was, “We’ll have to rehearse that part a lot to get it right.” She invited me over for rehearsal and “a quick lunch” at her apartment, and I thought “Yes! There is a God!” (I was an atheist at the time, but started rethinking that).
When I arrived, I saw two steaming servings of–you guessed it–tom & chee on her dinette table. Forget sharing a bottle at a little café on the Seine (wait, no, don’t—that sounds awesome!)… But anyway, I was certain this would be the moment we fell in love. It wasn’t. Or rather, it wasn’t for her. But we did become friends. And the kiss was cut.
Some time later, however, I did end falling in love, mutually this time, with a smart, talented, beautiful girl who happily rehearses kissing scenes with me–all the time! Oh, and 35 years on, guess what we eat when we want something SiBY?
And when we need a quick meal away from home? We often end up at a Cincinnati-based comfort food chain that makes delicious sandwiches and soups. They’re named for their specialty:
Tom & Chee!