Author’s Note: A little-known side note of history of interest especially to gastronomes, epicures and connoisseurs du fromage is the fact that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is credited with inventing the grilled cheese sandwich. Legend tells us that Mary was inspired to fill pita bread with her homemade goat cheese and then toast the whole thing in the oven. The sandwich, brushed with olive oil, browned nicely and was often served with fig jam. It was called pita velvita frita; in Aramaic literally meaning ‘bread cheese fried’. Unfortunately, the Feast of the Holy Grilled Cheese Sandwich has been dropped from some liturgical calendars.
And, lo, it came to pass one day when the youngster Jesus had reached the age of 7 years, 2 months and 22 days, that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was preparing pita velvita frita for Jesus and the other children and one portion was left too long on the fire. She snatched it out almost burning her fingers in the process and handed it to Jesus saying, “Be careful you don’t burn yourself. It’s hot!”
Jesus took the pita gingerly in his fingers and returned thanks, but before he could eat of it, Little Simon, sitting next to him, exclaimed, “Jesú! Look at your pita! There’s a picture on it!!”
“Where?” cried Jesus. “I don’t see anything.” The other children crowded in to see the image.
“Oh,” cried Judas and Joses in unison. “It’s a face!”
“Heavens to Bethsaida!!” cried James. “The face of a man!”
“What face?! I don’t see anything!” said Jesus, keen to be in on the fun of this wonder.
“Oh, I see him!” cried one of the girls. “See, beard, moustache, long hair. His nose is that real dark spot.”
But Jesus, frustration showing on his face, said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t see anything. It’s just spots!”
“It’s plain as day,” said James with a yawn, already tiring of this because it wasn’t his own piece of bread.
“I can’t see it!!” said Jesus who was beginning to get angry with himself.
“I think the man is laughing,” said Joses.
“Don’t play with your food,” admonished Mary. “Thank you Abba for this bread. Here. Take. Eat. All of you.”
Each of the other children took a piece of sandwich and returned thanks, but instead of eating, they all carefully examined both sides of their bread to see if there were any miraculous images on their own pieces.
Jesus lifted his sandwich high up in the light and examining it minutely and from different angles; screwing up his eyes made them water a bit and for a fleeting moment he thought he saw something, but, in the end, he was unable to see what the others saw in the bread.
He hmphed hard through his nose, then held the sandwich right in from of his eyes and slowly moved it away from his eyes, hoping in that way to see the image. Still nothing.
“All of you!” insisted Mary. “Eat!”
Gradually, each child gave up the search for images in their sandwiches and ate.
Mary softly sang a song as the children ate.
“Bread is Life.
Life is Bread.
Abba is Bread to the hungry.
Come to us, oh Abba, as bread for the eating.
May we hunger for You, dear Abba, as we hunger for bread.
May we hunger for Your righteousness as we hunger for bread.
Remember us, oh Abba, and give us bread each day.
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