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Croque Monsieurs and Other Ways the World Makes Grilled Cheese

08/05/2014 01:41 pm ET | Updated Oct 05, 2014

Layers of cheese melted between two slices of bread -- a simple idea with a worldwide reputation. The grilled cheese sandwich is beloved by many cultures around the world, made with different types of bread and cheese and some with additional ingredients.

It was first widely eaten in the United States as a cheap meal during the Great Depression, when money was low and cheese and bread were some of the least expensive food items. During World War II, grilled cheese was a common snack served in the military, and U.S. government cookbooks from the time describe grilled cheese as "American cheese filling sandwiches." Now, we eat grilled cheese as a late-night snack, as a gourmet sandwich in restaurants, and really any time we feel like it.

Around the world, the grilled cheese sandwich goes by other names. The French equivalent, a Croque Monsieur, is made by melting Gruyère cheese over a ham sandwich as well as inside of it. A Croque Madame is the same but with a fried egg on top. In South America, the traditional arepa becomes a cheese arepa when cheese is melted in the middle or baked into the dough. For Australians, there's nothing simpler or tastier than a vegemite grilled cheese sandwich with melted cheese on one side and vegemite on the other.

  • 1 Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame — France
  • In a Croque Monsieur — the French equivalent of a grilled cheese — Gruyère cheese is melted over a ham sandwich as well as inside of it. A Croque Madame is the same, but with a fried egg on top. Photo Credit: Thinkstock Click Here to see More Ways the World Makes Grilled Cheese Click Here to see the Croque Madame Recipe
  • 2 Jibarito — Puerto Rico
  • Fried green plantains take the place of bread in this Puerto Rican grilled cheese specialty that is traditionally filled with steak and melted cheese, topped with lettuce and tomato, and spread with garlic-seasoned mayonnaise. Photo Credit: © Flickr / rosidae
  • 3 Quesadilla — Mexico
  • The familiar sandwich known as the quesadilla — a cheese-filled (and often meat- and vegetable-filled) tortilla, folded in half and grilled — originated in Mexico. Photo Credit: iStock/Thinkstock Click Here to see More Ways the World Makes Grilled Cheese Click Here to see the Vegetable Quesadilla Recipe
  • 4 Cuban — Cuba
  • The Cuban — prepared on Cuban bread with Swiss cheese melted over ham and roasted pork and topped with pickles and mustard — comes from Cuba, but it’s made its way to Florida, where it’s a sandwich icon in Tampa and Miami. Photo Credit: Thinkstock Click Here to see the Cubano Sandwich Recipe
  • 5 Welsh Rarebit and Buck Rarebit — England
  • This classic English grilled cheese is traditionally made by toasting thick slices of bread in the oven, then pouring a savory sauce, consisting of melted cheese, beer, and seasonings like mustard, cayenne pepper, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce, over the bread. A buck rarebit is the same but with a fried egg on top. Click Here to see More Ways the World Makes Grilled Cheese Photo Credit: iStock/Thinkstock

-Haley Willard, The Daily Meal