Say cheese: Sandwich preparation product gives -- and gets -- no love

It caught my eye as I walked by, hanging next to the bread on the aisle shelves.

“Grilled cheese made easy.”

I paused with my shopping cart. Made easy? Isn’t it already easy? How could it possibly be made easier? I turned around. I had to find out.

The product featured two bags, each of which can hold two slices of bread with cheese in between. You place the bagged sandwich in the toaster, press down and -- minutes later, you’ve got a perfectly toasted sandwich.

It was ridiculous. I had to buy it. I couldn’t imagine that anything about it would work, neither the promised easiness nor the implied deliciousness. But anything claiming to make grilled cheese sandwiches easier in multiple languages can’t be wrong. Right?

When I got home and opened the “toastabags” (tagline: “it’s better in the bag!”) I saw an immediate problem: the bread I usually buy was too wide to fit into the bag. Already I had out-classed this product. I attempted to make myself half of a grilled cheese sandwich, which only made the process more complicated, so I added “cheaper bread” to my shopping list.

I also noticed an unexpected statement in small print on the back of the package: “It is a well known fact that birds have a sensitive respiratory system. Do not not keep birds in or near to your kitchen.” A PTFE non-stick emblem sat on top (this stands for polytetrafluoroethylene, a synthetic fluoropolymer. The best known brand name of PTFE-based formula is Teflon.). The odd statement and its implication was disconcerting. Even though I am not, nor do I have, a bird, this might not be considered a non-toxic food preparation process by all people.

But I still wanted to see if it worked. Once I had smaller, more square slices of bread in hand, I threw a slice of cheese between two of them, bagged them and put them in the toaster. If you would like to eat two pieces of dry toast glued together with melted cheese, then you would be pleased with what emerged. However, that is not what I consider to be a grilled cheese sandwich.

I tried buttering the bread before putting it in the bag. What resulted was more like buttered toast, glued together with melted cheese. So, a slight improvement.

Did the bag serve any purpose whatsoever? I put two slices of bread with cheese between them into the toaster slot and I grabbed some baking soda to douse any, uh, unexpected flames. I ended up with two pieces of dry toast with a slice of unmelted cheese between them. By the time the cheese melts, the bread meets the definition of what most would call “burnt.”

So the bag does accomplish something. I just don’t know if it accomplishes what it claims. The hassle of pulling out the toaster, trying to squeeze the prepared sandwich into the bag and then washing the bag after use (the package claims the bags can be used 50 times, but based on construction, I’d say more like 10) seemed like a lot more work than just using a pan. While the result might have the ingredients and nutritional value of a grilled cheese sandwich, it has none of the deliciousness.

Now, if a birdless individual was prone to burning their grilled cheese sandwiches and had an extremely undiscerning palate, this may be a product to consider. Anyone outside that category, however, would do better to use the more effective -- and easy to use -- griddle or frying pan.

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