Cheese In The Middle East
by Rob Cottignies
There is a tree. There is also an island. Actually, there are many trees and many islands but one particular tree only grows on one particular island. I am speaking about the dragon's blood tree (Dracaena cinnibari) which can only be found on the island of Socotra, the largest of four islands in the Socotra archipelago off the coast of Yemen. The dragon's blood tree is arguably the most interesting-looking tree on our planet and its red sap was mythologized as resembling the blood of a dragon. These trees can be found on plateaus, beaches, mountains, and wherever else they feel like sprouting up from the mighty ground. A dream of mine is to sit under a dragon's blood tree and admire Socotra's diverse flora and fauna, read a book, eat the tree's berries, contemplate, or whatever else.
This seems like an innocent and easily-attained dream, right? Sadly, it will probably never come true. I have the means, motive, and opportunity to visit Socotra, so why should this not happen? Well, per the U.S. Department of State, 'Travel to Yemen is strongly discouraged due to a state of severe political crisis, as well as a very high threat of terrorist attacks, abductions, tribal violence and general lawlessness. Terrorist groups actively target tourist groups, with targeted suicide bombings and armed ambushes occurring yearly since 2007.' In short, I can't relax under a tree because people want to blow each other up. Sure, I could sit under the tree, but there's a decent chance I could be kidnapped and/or killed on my journey to it by terrorists, pirates, or any other group of angry folks who are waiting to cause chaos. Those trees are awesome but not really worth the risk to myself.
How did we get to this point? By 'we', I mean humans, the only species of the roughly 8.7 million on Earth to cause such situations. Violence is in our nature. Take a look at the history of almost any country, tribe, ethnicity, or religion and you will find massive amounts of bloodshed. Even our ancestral apes, as pointed out by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, likely resorted to violence when the thought emerged. Sure, many animals fight with each other, but those bouts are limited to hunting for food and protecting the pack. Humans do horrible things to other humans out of greed, jealousy, revenge, enjoyment, or even no reason at all.
"For a long time I could not conceive how one man could go forth to murder his fellow, or even why there were laws and governments; but when I heard details of vice and bloodshed, my wonder ceased and I turned away with disgust and loathing." -the creature, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
And why would this state of things change? The Middle East has been a disaster since I've been aware of what it is and long before that...
But then I wonder, 'Do they eat grilled cheese in the Middle East?' I think not, because the versatility of this food alone would make anyone stop blowing things up and start eating immediately. ANY person can take two slices of ANY kind of bread and put ANY kind of cheese between them to get a delicious and possibly nutritious snack. Follow this mantra- Cheese, bread, heat, eat, repeat. We all know that melted cheese makes any food into an absolute delicacy but with grilled cheese the melted cheese is the featured ingredient. Peaceful and relaxing, cheese has a proven* calming effect on any person it enters. When it's placed between bread and grilled, Nirvana is achieved. Go forth, young Arhat.
What's even greater than great is that you don't have to specifically grill your sandwich. Instead, you could toast it, bake it, broil it, griddle it, pan-fry it, cook it over an open fire, put it in a Panini press, or however else you want to cook it for maximum deliciosity©. Phew, for a minute there I felt like somebody else…
Have you ever seen Benny And Joon? Me neither, but apparently it contains some charming scene wherein Johnny Depp makes grilled cheese with a clothes iron. As far as I know, Johnny Depp has never wanted to blow me up so that I couldn't sit under a dragon's blood tree, so I'll also trust his method.
By adding a few simple ingredients, you can make at least 150 different but still amazingly deliciously wonderfully melty grilled cheese sandwiches!
If grilled cheese sounds amazing but not quite filling enough, have I got some great news for you. Grilled cheese's best friend is none other than tomato soup! Just think about dipping the corner of your scrumptious love-melt into a bowl of hot slightly-peppered liquid red wholesome creamy amazingness. Is anyone else drooling right now? If you're not, immediately stop what you're doing and spend no less than four hours on this site.
Cranking the drool factor up to eleven for people who hate their bodies but love their taste buds, restaurant chain Friendly's once offered a grilled cheese burger melt, which was a good old juicy hamburger smushed between *two* grilled cheese sandwiches. Sadly/Thankfully, this item is no longer available.
The Great Depression, by its own definition, was one of the saddest times in our country's history. To feel better, do you know what people ate during this era? Grilled cheese! They often called it Cheese Dream and I don't blame them for one second. Sometimes there were variations, such as adding bacon or eggs and- gasp!- preparing it open-faced. I mean, if the saddest people ever ate grilled cheese to get through their hardships, surely terrorists and counter-terrorists would benefit from its grandiosity, eating together while holding hands and singing Imagine.
So forget about which celebrities hate each other and how awful people with different beliefs from yours are and whatever other nonsense occupies your days and make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich according to your own specifications. And enjoy it! Free will is everyone's right when it comes to cheese. Hopefully Middle Easterners will read my message and act accordingly, we'll do our parts, and I'll see you in Yemen.
*though it very well may have been proven, I made this up
Postscript- This article was originally titled 'Discussing The Disgusting' and had taken a very serious turn toward Existentialism and the history of human-on-human violence. Wasn't reading about cheese so much better!?!? You're welcome.