Grilled cheese sandwiches. These are my downfall.

I love grilled cheese. I want a perfectly cooked sandwich on wheat bread with real cheddar. I want it cut into triangles and spread with dijon mustard, or maybe with a jar of mustard and knife on the side, for application at will. I want a bowl of Campbell's Vegetarian Vegetable "The ALPHABET Soup!" in which to dip said sandwich at my leisure. And I want a big cup of hot coffee and one of milk (skim, thank you) to complete the experience. But alas, every time I want such an experience I have to ask someone else to make me a sandwich, or risk setting off the fire alarm.

What? Yeah. Every grilled cheese sandwich I have ever made all by myself has died a fiery death. Or not "fiery" per se, but "charred", "smoky", or "rock-hard". I try buttering one side of the sandwich, both sides, the pan And both sides, and still it burns. I try putting the lid on the pan and leaving it on low for five minutes, like my mother taught me when I was nine: no dice, although at least only one side is burnt. That is, until I turn it. Then both sides burn. I try watching the whole sandwich like a hawk: this time, it takes fifteen minutes of tender loving care for it to burn. The cheese melts out into the frying pan, and I end up sandwichless, spending a cold, lonely half hour scalding my hands as I scrub away at black grit with a brillo pad. The bottle of Palmolive leers at me from the edge of the sink. You can't cook, but at least there are no dishwater hands with Palmolive! O Palmolive, I believe that you and your team of happy housewives can just fuck off, because I'm having none of it.

Ok. Deep breath.

I have made one edible grilled cheese sandwich in my life, and that only because Adam helped me. What is wrong here? I can cook complicated cream sauces. I make broth to use in homemade soups all week. I bake bread instead of buying it. For a while, when I had time to get home for lunch, I cooked myself a real lunch every day. I can take a recipe and create multiple variations of it. I feel competent in the kitchen. But I can't make the one easiest diner staple ever concocted. Yet frat boys who don't know their ass from a can opener, who overflow the dishwasher because they can't tell the difference between dishwasher soap and regular, can make grilled cheese sandwiches on the ironing board!

So I have concluded that this is the one food I am destined never to be able to make. The more people I talk to, the more I am convinced that everyone has one of these. A person's given food may be the easiest thing on earth to make, yet they consistently kill it. They read up different techniques in different cookbooks, and try them all to no avail. John's mother, for instance, can't make baked potatoes to save her life. John himself agonizes over pie crusts (for that matter, so do I--both our crusts turn out edible, but are incredibly difficult for us to make, and generally tough as well). Another friend of mine tries to make omelets, but they always, always turn into scrambled eggs. In the book Jane of Lantern Hill, Jane, an excellent cook, fails utterly and completely at making doughnuts.

We are all good cooks, and can make all kinds of other foods with ease and success. Yet we don't have a hand for these specific foods, and fail consistently at making them. It's not as if we haven't tried, so what is the deal? I find this to be one of the most frustrating things than can happen in cooking. You hit a stumbling block that initially looks very much as if you can just step over it and continue on your merry way. But instead the block turns out to be made of a gummy substance which promptly encases your legs. It emits poison gas on contact, it forcibly repels your body as you walk toward it. You stare at it. It looks an awful lot like a block on the ground. Your friends don't even notice it is there. Still, it looms before you. It's a block that you must walk carefully around, knowing that you still have not conquered it, every single time.

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