Franklin D. Roosevelt's Favorite Sandwich Was A Comforting Classic

Every person has their own idea of the dishes that constitute "comfort foods," but the concept itself is universal; these are the foods that sustain us, body and soul, through difficult times. While it can be hard to think of presidents as people just like us, it's easy to see why a person in power might crave some comfort foods every now and then — especially 32nd President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who loved a simple, satisfying, and reassuring grilled cheese.

FDR served during one of the most challenging moments in our nation's history, beginning his term in 1933, in the middle of the Great Depression and continuing through 1945, nearly the entirety of World War II. For many Americans, the 1930s were a time of extreme economic hardship. And grilled cheese, with its short and straightforward recipe composed of just a few ingredients, was fairly affordable, yet rich in flavor. Soon enough, this classic sandwich became a kind of national treasure that presidents and citizens alike could enjoy.

How grilled cheese became an American tradition

Though it's one of the most iconic comfort foods today, the grilled cheese sandwich that we know — and that Franklin D. Roosevelt would have been eating during his presidency — is a relatively recent invention. Bread and cheese have existed in various parts of the world for thousands of years, but it was only during the 20th century in the United States that the technology to uniformly prepare and slice these products was created, leading to the white-bread-plus-orange-cheese combination that is so beloved. 

Kraft sold its first sliced American cheese in 1916, while Wonder Bread arrived on supermarket shelves in 1930. FDR was elected as president just two years later. The timing of these two inventions was a bright spot in the dark days of the Great Depression. The grilled cheese's quick rise to popularity and a place of honor in the White House may have been as much about necessity as it was an interest in the novelty of these food innovations.

This extreme and extended period of economic downturn is also the historical reason we pair tomato soup and grilled cheese. While canned tomato soup had already hit the markets a couple decades prior, the affordability of this product made it the ideal, hearty companion for the sandwich.

Tips for making FDR's favorite sandwich

Nearly a century after the invention of the modern grilled cheese, you can easily recreate President Franklin D. Roosevelt's favorite sandwich exactly as he would have enjoyed it back in his time. But, don't forget that comfort foods are, by definition, very personal, so you should feel free to make this timeless meal to suit your preferences (so add tomatoes or bacon or anything else you might like). Given the simplicity of the recipe, it's all about carefully choosing the ingredients.

Since bread is what holds it all together, and largely defines the texture, you'll want to make sure you have the best bread for a crispy grilled cheese. Thanks to its sturdy structure, sourdough is an ideal option that can help you avoid a soggy sandwich. It also toasts well, which provides the perfect crunchy contrast to the creaminess of the cheese inside.

That being said, the name of the sandwich highlights the importance of the dairy component, and many of the tips for making the best grilled cheese are centered on what goes between the slices of bread. For the most flavor and the ultimate mouthwatering cheese-pull, choose from a variety of different options, such as sharp cheddar and gruyere, and even combine them together for a richer result.