“Consistent Joy”

Talia Lavin’s Substack blog, The Sword and the Sandwich, is a marvel of multiple focus: the arts (mostly movies and literature), the American “far right,” and … “notable sandwiches.” In my dreams I cannot write as whimsically as she can (and, even when wide awake, rarely as intelligently). This is from her 75th installment on sandwiches, The Grilled Cheese:

In writing about the grilled cheese sandwich, I find myself with little to offer but praise. It is difficult to encounter such a thing and not overrun the page with the fervency of my gladness.

This is not a column where I will carp and complain—about air-fryer grilled cheeses, or fancy gourmet grilled cheeses, or Kraft-single grilled cheeses, or the proper application of butter, or the appropriate pan, or the degree and nature of the condiments. To me, each grilled cheese is enough, and more than enough. In this world so full of slaughter and fire, where doubt and monstrosity abound, this much is clear to me: the grilled cheese is a small and perfect thing. And how many of those are there? 

So my position on the grilled cheese is unabashedly boosterish, and moreover, it is agnostic towards ingredients and provenance. To your grilled cheese you may add caramelized onions or avocado; bacon, turkey or ham; chutney or cornichons. Make it with Wonderbread or a freshly-baked eighteen-grain country loaf sourced from fields you cultivated yourself in a cantilevered sky-farm with the finest hydroponics. Add goat cheese or smoked gouda or aged cheddar or unidentified plasticine processed cheese product; heat it in a pan or over a flame, under a broiler, in a dutch oven, or with an acetylene torch. I do not care. You have composed something perfect with your own hands. You have made something that will warm and satisfy you. You have, for a small moment, partaken of the act of creation that grants the human animal its sliver of divinity. You have done so by means of the grilled cheese sandwich.

From two perfect things—bread and cheese—arises a more perfect union. …

I am hungry for joy lately. Perhaps you are too. The grilled cheese sandwich for me is an object of consistent joy, which is different in kind than the transcendent ray-through-the-clouds joy that graces any life too rarely. Perhaps that makes it more valuable; reliable pleasure, ordinary pleasure, is as common as light and as necessary. It is only in the consideration of it that I come to appreciate how this mundane thing can be an object of desire and delight. With effort and after much contemplation I think myself toward joy, and welcome its arrival. Life must be leavened by joy to rise; stand and let it in; it approaches with soft footfalls and is easy to miss, or to begrudge in petulance or fervor. …

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