The Year In Food » Fine Seasonal Eating

Masthead header



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.

(Smith Rocks, Oregon.)

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.

(That’s me!)

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.


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
handful arugula

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!


  • Jacqui - I’ve always been a bit intimidated by rock climbing too. But you’re making it sound like I really should try! Lovely sandwich too!ReplyCancel

  • sarah - I have such a hard time leaving my comfort zones. Good for you for stepping out – it’s not easy to do. And this sandwich looks so comforting – I usually turn to grilled cheese, too. :)ReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - That vista is truly amazing!ReplyCancel

  • Stacy - You point out something so wonderful here — life can be quite grand in AND out of our comfort zones. I think that having both is, in fact, key; each makes the other better. And good for you for climbing! Looks like you were doing it in the midst of splendor, too.ReplyCancel

  • la domestique - Way to go trying something new! Rock climbing does look hard and unfun, but maybe someday I’ll try it. :) On the other hand, the grilled cheese looks fab and I will gladly give it a go soon. Happy summer!ReplyCancel

  • Amy - I am jealous of your rock climbing adventure! I love climbing (although I am at an extreme beginner level) and I can’t wait for the next time I get to go.
    I always find that when I leave my comfort zones I learn the most about myself. I call them waterfalls. When I have conquered something in my life I always sense the need to throw myself off another waterfall; I know that at the bottom, and in the fall there will be something more of me.ReplyCancel

  • Allison - I’ve always wanted to give rock climbing a try, but I am a little afraid about how my body will react to the heights and adrenaline. But I also find, like you, that usually when I step out of my comfort zone, I actually enjoy the experience.ReplyCancel

  • Melanie - That is so true what you say about your body not believing your safe, even though you know you’re harnessed in. I’ve only tried rock climbing once–at an indoor wall–but it was surprisingly fun and exhilarating. I might have to give it another try.ReplyCancel

  • Melanie - ooops “you’re safe” not “your” I hate that:)ReplyCancel

  • SG - R E P E L L I N G ! that is all i remember of my 9th grade rock climbing trip.

    I wish we had that grilled cheese to eat after.ReplyCancel

  • Erin - I’m finding more and more that stepping out of my comfort zone leads to feeling happier and finding new loves I would have never found before (rock climbing is on that list-that location looks gorgeous!)ReplyCancel

  • NicoleD - Oh, wow, good for you! I could maybe do it knowing that beautiful grilled cheese was waiting for me.ReplyCancel

  • Riley - Wow that looks scary! I’ll take the sandwich while everyone else climbs!ReplyCancel

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food - I have a fear of heights… but I have had moments where I have gone hiking and, at some point, get so scared, that the fear then turns into euphoria and I feel that high that everyone talks about. Still can’t get me to go rock climbing… Just saying that I understand the feeling and am thrilled that you got to experience this.ReplyCancel

  • Lynda - You go, girl. I’ll stick with that mighty pretty grilled cheese.ReplyCancel

  • Renee - I’m not at all vertically inclined (fear of heights and all that) but you make it look very cool. Way to go! Grilled cheese is more my style, and this one looks awesome. I like the sounds of your new series :)ReplyCancel

  • Hannah - love the shots of the rocks and the river – and love the way you contrasted the rugged and stark images with the bright cheery tomatoes and grilled cheese. Definitely reinforces the comfort versus challenge :) Also love the idea of grilled sandwiches on the road – we tend towards cold sandwiches, but this proves that it doesn’t take much more to make them warm. Thanks for the vicarious adventure ~ReplyCancel

  • Kristen - Kimberly, I follow you here and on Etsy. So exciting to see you were in my neck of the woods! I grew up in Bend, isn’t Smith Rocks amazing?! Beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Kathryn - I think I need to step out of my comfort zone more, this is such an inspirational post.ReplyCancel

  • Katie - Those are beautiful pictures! Good for you for challenging yourself to give it a try. The grilled cheese looks amazing as well. I love the idea of using cherry tomatoes. Plus arugula and smoked gouda? Yum!ReplyCancel

  • just dream already « Chipper Things - […] from The Year in Food Regift it:MoreLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was written by Chipper Things, […]ReplyCancel

  • Elisabeth Ryan - Smith rocks is so awesome! I’ve been there camping several times, but I’ve never climbed.ReplyCancel

  • Catherine - This looks so delicious! If you’re a big fan of grilled cheese, check out La Brea Bakery’s Grilled Cheese Reunion. Share your grilled cheese story for the chance to win a trip home.

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *