From Meme and Me – Fontina and Beefsteak Tomato Grilled Cheese

There’s something special about this sandwich. My Meme used to make me one of these every time I  visited her. As soon as I’d walk in, she’d ask that magic question that never even needed an answer. “You hungry darlin’?” she’d say, and without waiting for a response, she’d rumble through the fridge and bring out her iconic ingredients: cheese, white bread, butter, and a tomato.

I know I didn’t really mention it but when I went to visit Tallahassee last week, I also went to see my Grandma who has Alzheimer’s and is living in an assisted living facility down there.

During college, I spent a lot of time with my Grandparents; from Sunday meals to running errands around town. But after my Poppy died during my sophomore year, I sort of became of my Meme’s caretaker. It got hard after he passed. They had been married for almost 60 years, and it seemed as if her mind couldn’t really deal with it. She began to forget things and the doctor told us that she was displaying early signs of Dementia. At first we laughed about her using sugar instead of salt in her tomato gravy and rice, but it got to the point where she needed some serious help and unfortunately, I was planning on moving to New York for grad school that same summer. The decision to leave was really hard, but luckily, I had my amazing uncle there to help as much as he could. After I left, the inevitable happened, the disease got a hold of her and was she diagnosed with Alz.

I’m not going to put on a front and say it was lovely and wonderful seeing her last week because it wasn’t. It was really, really, really freaking hard. I mean, luckily, she still remembers all of us, but it’s not the same. She’s not really there and she knows it. It’s tough seeing her like that. And because of it, I wanted to make a post to celebrate my Meme by commemorating her amazing hospitality and love. This little snack was something that she’d whip up, pop in the oven, and then forget about it for the next few minutes while she caught up with me. It was also perfect for times when I brought over my starving college friends, because she could fill a whole baking sheet and not have to tend to the frying pan like with traditional grilled cheese sandwiches. Honestly, she’s the best, you’d love her…even when she gets a little sassy…and she does get a little sassy.

As I mentioned before, those iconic ingredients are:


– 2 slices of lite boule or some white bread
– 1/2 cup of shredded fontina
– 1 giant beefsteak tomato slice
– 1 tbsp of herbed butter
  (combine 1 tbsp salted butter with 1/2 tsp herbs
   de provence)

My entire family is obsessed with butter. I’m not kidding, not even a little bit.  I once saw teeth marks in a tub of I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter. Who does that?? I still think it was my Dad but he’ll never fess up.  But yeah, my mom always bought that kind because if we had the good stuff in our fridge, it would be devoured, along with every single piece of bread or cracker in the house. But before I gross you out any longer…

To begin, go ahead and butter your bread with some delicious herbed butter. Feel free to mix up with anything you’d like; garlic or thyme-infused butter would work wonderfully.

During the next step, you’ll want to preheat your oven to 450°. Then put the bread, butter side down, onto a baking sheet. Then sprinkle it with fontina cheese. My Meme always used government cheese cheddar but I just did cheddar in last week’s post so I wanted to switch it up. 

Next, you’ll want a nice thick slice of tomato to lay down right in the middle of the sandwich. Sometimes Meme would salt and pepper it, but I never knew when to do that so I left it out. Whenever I tried , it would always come out too salty. I guess she just had some sort of magic touch.

When it’s all built, go ahead and place the baking sheet on the middle rack for about six and a half minutes. This will give you ample time to pour someone a sweet tea and bring them a cookie.*

*Hospitality lesson 101: Always bring someone a sweet tea and a cookie. It will instantly make them happy they came over.

And then when it’s all bubbly and golden, take it out and fold the two pieces together to make a sandwich. 

Give it a second to rest because if you cut it right away, the tomato will slip out and burn your chin.  I’m speaking from experience, of course.

I know that Meme will probably never see this because I don’t think she even knows what the internet is, but at least I can share it with all of you. I know Alz can be hard, but it’s best to treasure the good times and this sandwich definitely helps me do that. It reminds me of being a little kid and sitting in her kitchen while she helped me with ALL of my problems. As I ate this after I shot it, I got a little teary eyed because I wish I could have been eating it with her. I know she probably feels the same way.

And if you’re feeling generous, the Alzheimer’s Assocation is a wonderful not-for-profit group that would love your help to keep fighting the memory loss battle. And for those of you who are struggling with the same thing, stay strong and keep loving! Hopefully there will be a cure soon.




  1. Your post brought me to tears! You nailed one of Meme's favorite cure all sandwich 's. Meme fed many generations this grilled cheese! Thank you for being a wonderful, caring daughter and most important Grandaughter!


  2. Kenz! This post definitely hit home.. My grandmother who suffered from that terrible disease died 5 years ago. I know how hard it is, but just keep your head up and cherish every moment. Ughhh you've got me all teary now! Anyway, this is an amazing post, as always. Love you!!!


  3. It is ahrd when the loved oen is not around anymore.I hate when people ask you than:How old was she .My Grandma was 87 and than comments :Oh she lived so long…Yes but because she lived so long I knew her all my life and miss her even more.Any words to say to you would sound like cliche so I wish you strength to deal with your grief..


  4. Woman! This website is pretty much the best thing that has ever happened to me. If I could eat grilled cheese every meal I would just be so happy! Grilled cheese with tomato is my all time favorite…my grandma would always make this for me after school when I was younger, brought back lots of memories. xoxo


  5. Had to comment… I had a Meme. She passed away a few years ago. Don't hear that name used for Grandmothers very often!! Sandwich looks delicious 🙂


  6. I'm sorry that your grandmother and you and your family are dealing with Alzheimer's. One of my grandpas had that and yep, it's awful. 😦 But it's nice that you can remember the good times and recreate the food she made! This sandwich looks awesome. I'll have to try herbed butter on grilled cheese soon!


  7. just had an early morning cry. meme's so cute. and i wish i had experienced a real grandma 😦 and damn this sammy looks so delicious. (i'm listening to nevermind so i should get through this)


  8. your post really hit home for me as i lost my nan to alzheimers earlier this year. she was a tough old bird with a penchant for baking that none could match. no matter what tasty delights she put in front of me, nothing was as good as her simple grilled cheese. i've tried everything to recreate her crusty, cheesy creations to no avail. there was something about the extra dash of love that made them special. thanks for the story and for the recipe!


  9. The sandwich looks wonderful! But what I really loved was your heart toward your grandmother. Isn't Alzheimer's horrible! We've already had several older ones in our family who have had it.

    Your grandmother would be proud of her grandaughter!


  10. Just found your blog and have spent the last two days (on and off) looking through all of your posts and bookmarking all of the ones I absolutely *must* try ASAP. Grilled sandwiches of any kind are my favorite form of sustenance, and your incredible recipes excite me to no end. I also love your stories and earnest voice. Can't wait to see what you come up with next!


  11. I loved this post too. There is nothing wrong with being sassy, or using all the cheese in the world to make a sandwich. This is the comfort food of those cold winter months. I am guessing that most people don't grow old and get sassy, they have to have this in their spirt all of thier life. How adorable of you to honor your “Meme”. I will be back to visit very soon. And I am suppose to be on this diet!


  12. Somehow, for me, food binds me with my grandmother more than anything. When I miss her the most I make applesauce and while she is not here any longer to share it with me, and her great grandchildren, I love knowing that my girls might know her just a bit, even if only through applesauce. This was really lovely, and the sandwich looks simply wonderful. Thank you!


  13. My mom is in a nursing home now and can't communicate. Your loving post made me cry because she made the very same thing in the very same way. She called it “Toasted Cheese” (as opposed to “Grilled Cheese”). Proust was right that taste can bring back memories. Thank you for posting this and for your wonderful blog.


  14. Your post just struck home with me so much! Thank you for telling that. The precious way you relate the treasuring of your family is something my family also values so much! It was a wonderful life story and I will share it with my daughter. Your Meme sounds like a wonderful person and one who passed her goodness on through her cooking talents and her dna!


  15. That looks so delicious, thank you for sharing the recipe. Food becomes so much more enjoyable when it reminds us of special memories and people. It makes dining even more poignant when we are reminded of people who aren't with us, like Mezzodrama whose mom is in a nursing home.


  16. Just like a good movie, I feel moved, happy, poignant, and hungry after reading this post. It's sad to think when our family is in hospice services, but we will forever cherish our moments together, just like yours.


  17. I got teary eyed reading this post. Warm comfort food and family go hand in hand in the memories we keep close to us. Stay strong, they're still lots of good times to be had with your Meme. Love your blog! xox


  18. you must have a “grilled cheesus!” I use mine daily for breakfast (french toast with cream cheese, blueberries and maple syrup) lunch…any thing you can put between 2 slices of bread and dinner, ditto!! Google it, you won't be sorry 🙂


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