Cheese Zombies - Gastro Obscura
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Prepared Foods

Cheese Zombies

The Yakima Valley's beloved school lunch takes grilled cheese to the next level.

In the late 1950s, a school district in Washington’s Yakima Valley received an excess of subsidized cheese. Faced with the abundance of dairy, the food services supervisor (or, by other accounts, a local cafeteria cook) invented a new sandwich that soon appeared on cafeteria menus: the Cheese Zombie. 

The Cheese Zombie is essentially a grilled cheese cake that’s baked with fresh dough. Zombie-makers begin by placing American cheese slices between rolled-out sheets of dough. Before placing the giant sandwich into the oven, they pinch the dough together to seal it—no one wants to lose any of the cheese—then top with a brush of melted butter to create a soft, brown crust. When they’re finished, the individual sandwiches are cut much like a sheet of cake. The result is easy to eat with one hand, hearty, and terrific with tomato soup. And, unlike the typical toast used in grilled cheese, the bread in a Zombie is like a soft pizza crust. 

Yakima Valley school districts still make the meal, and nostalgic adults can get their Zombie fix from one of the many small shops in the area that also serve the sandwich. It’s especially popular at Halloween, perhaps due to its name.

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