If you had asked me three weeks ago what I thought about rock climbing, I would’ve likely answered, Eh, not for me. It looks hard – hard and scary and unfun. Then I found myself in the company of a bunch of climbers for a couple of weeks. It felt cultish, their specialized language and single-minded obsession with the sport. And their dogged persistance to get me to try. I can be stubborn sometimes, and I resisted. But I guess they knew that while it is hard and scary and sometimes unfun, it’s also incredibly, unbelievably gratifying. In a way that nothing else I’ve experienced is.
There is really very little in life that can be likened to the experience of clinging to a rock fifty feet off the ground, the toes gripping a couple awkward nubby protrusions and the hands desperately tracing the rock for something to hold. The body’s impulse is to panic – calves shake, hands grip harder, breath quickens – and it’s hard for the mind to override that. I knew that I wasn’t unsafe, given that I was strapped into a very reassuring harness, but my body didn’t totally believe that. Not most of the time anyway.
Doing something like that, taking a chance on something I’m sure I won’t like and then discovering that I do like it, in spite of myself, is a little bit life-changing. This is a big part of why I travel: to be surprised. I give myself over to unfamiliar situations and I really have no idea what will happen – there is no predicting who I will meet or what will transpire. And that always shakes me up, typically for the better. I like having the boundaries of my comfort zone flexed, despite some stubborn tendencies. And I like surprising myself.
And this grilled cheese? It sits squarely in the comfort zone, and that’s not a bad thing at all. It was enthusiastically appreciated at the end of a long day. It was a collaborative effort. It wasn’t planned. Cherry tomatoes travel well, as does arugula, surprisingly, and any hard cheese, unsurprisingly. I think the key to the success of this one was to pair two kinds of strong cheese and play them against the sweet of the tomatoes and the spicy of the arugula. That, and a huge appetite after an active day. That always helps.
This is part of my new summer series Eating Well on the Road.
CHERRY TOMATO + ARUGULA GRILLED CHEESE
For each sandwich:
2 slices bread
3 slices sharp cheddar
3 slices strong cheese, such as Asiago, Parmesan, smoked Gouda
4-6 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Warm a skillet over a medium flame. Melt one or two teaspoons butter in the pan. Then butter one side of each slice of bread. Arrange the cheese in layers on the bottom slice. Place in pan, cover with remaining slice, and weight with a plate to press.
Grill each side for 3-4 minutes, until the bread is crisped and golden.
Remove sandwich from heat. Carefully pull off the top slice. Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese. Finish with the arugula. Slice in half, and eat it right away!