I spent a lot of time reading as a child. I loved it so much, I read at night under the covers with a flashlight long past my bedtime.
I had two fictional friends who had a huge impact on me early on in life. The first was Dr. Seuss’ character, Horton the elephant. My first and favorite book was “Horton Hatches the Egg.” I renewed it from the library so many times, my parents finally bought it for me.
I was intrigued with Horton’s determination and courage. I used to walk around quoting him all the time: “I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant’s faithful 100 percent.” I’m sure my parents were sick of it after a while.
I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Seuss in 1986 at a book signing in New York City. He was promoting his new book, “You’re Only Old Once.” I stood in line to meet him with my copy of “Horton Hatches the Egg” tucked under my arm. When it was my turn, I told him about my love for Horton and he smiled. He looked over my well-worn book and said, “Do you know this is a first edition?” I didn’t. What I do know is I now have a signed first edition!
My second, and most influential, fictional friend was Heidi. I found everything about her fascinating and wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be a little blonde girl, live in the Swiss Alps in a cozy house with my grandfather, sleep in a little alcove in a bed made of straw and play with the goats.
I could only dream about these things, but there was one detail that became real to me. According to the story, when Heidi first arrived at her grandfather’s rustic mountain home, he fixed her something to eat. He toasted some cheese over the fire and served it to her on bread with some warm milk.
Right away cheese toast and warm milk became my new favorite meal. I got tired of warm milk pretty quickly, but my taste for cheese toast stuck with me. Even today, it rates right up there with my favorite things to eat.
In 1972, my husband and I traveled through the Swiss Alps and went to the top of Mt. Pilates. The view from the summit was stunning, but the most exciting thing I saw was a small chalet down the mountainside. It was just what I imagined Heidi’s house would look like.
Later that day at a small restaurant, I ordered something that roughly translated to cheese toast. It was the best I’ve ever eaten. This recipe is about as close as I can get to reliving that experience. Here’s to Heidi, cheese toast and a day in the Swiss Alps.
4 slices of a baguette, cut diagonally, about
2 Tbs. butter, softened
1 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
Combine the butter, garlic and paprika in a small bowl. Let sit for a while (about 30 minutes) to let the flavors meld. Place the bread slices on a baking sheet. Spread butter mixture on the bread and sprinkle the cheeses on top.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes until the bread is crisp and the cheese is bubbly. Serve immediately.
Note: Tuck sliced olives or chopped sundried tomatoes (or anything you like) under the cheese for extra flavor.
Another really good cheese toast recipe is Welsh Rarebit. It’s the English version of cheese toast and it’s terrific. I love it for lunch accompanied by a bowl of tomato soup or served for brunch with eggs and bacon. The English get a big thumbs up for this yummy dish.
2 Tbs. butter
4 Tbs. beer
Salt and pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp. spicy mustard
4 slices of bread, cut about
Melt butter in a saucepan. Add the beer, salt and pepper. Bring to the boiling point and add the cheese and mustard. Stir just enough to melt the cheese. Do NOT bring to a boil.
Put the toast on a baking dish and pour the mixture over it. Place under the broiler, watching it carefully, until the top is browned. Serve immediately.
Joy Smith is a Fort Mill resident.