Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Slice of Life: That is NOT a Reuben

Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers
host the Slice of Life every Tuesday.

I love Reuben sandwiches.  I always have loved this perfect creation ever since I was a little kid.  Now, as an adult, I have become quite picky about my Reuben sandwiches.  A Reuben must be on toast that is not too dry, with just the right combination of dressing, sauerkraut, cheese and corned beef.  The corned beef must be tender and melt in your mouth.

I have learned to keep a careful record (at least mentally and to my husband's credit, mostly in his mind) of whether I enjoy this sandwich at each establishment I have tried it in.  There is nothing worse to me than ordering and anticipating a good Reuben sandwich and ending up with a soggy, ridiculous mess.

According to Wikipedia, which is most definitely a dubious source but one that most people turn to for everyday things,  "The Reuben sandwich is a hot sandwich of corned beef, Swiss cheese, with Russian or Thousand Island dressing, and sauerkraut. These are grilled between slices of rye bread."
A Reuben sandwich on Marble Rye. YUM!
So, last week when my brother-in-law took me to a restaurant in the LA area to try their burger, I found myself swayed by the pull of my love for Reubens.  This restaurant, according to my brother-in-law and UrbanSpoon, was quite famous for their pastrami.  Any restaurant that makes good pastrami is sure to also make good corned beef, so I was eager to try a Reuben sandwich there.

I should have had the burger.

Um, people of LA, if it is made with pastrami, IT ISN'T A REUBEN SANDWICH!!!  After I already had my order, my brother-in-law proceeded to tell me that this is common in LA.  He has actually had arguments with other people about it.  WHAT?  Why didn't he tell me?!

Now, to the credit of the establishment we were in, it was a very good pastrami sandwich.  But it was not a Reuben sandwich.  It wasn't even toasted.  It was cold.  I know I should have read the menu better, but really they should not call it what it isn't.  

This was a small lesson about a few things.  

First, it made me think about all of the little regional things that we all take for granted every day.  Would someone from LA come here to Wisconsin and be disappointed that their Reuben sandwich was not made with pastrami?  This reminds me of having a Bloody Mary at brunch last year in LA.  Another regional expectation in Milwaukee? A beer chaser for the Bloody Mary. Out in LA there was not a chaser in sight.  These little things that are so dependent on your region amaze me.   I remember talking to my college roommate about having frozen custard and seeing the absolute look of disgust on her face.  No, I didn't take custard and put it in the freezer...it is a kind of ice cream that we thoroughly enjoy in Wisconsin.  Our country is such a vast place with all kinds of little idiosyncrasies.  So cool.  

Mmm...frozen custard.

Second, it made me think about the power of expectations.  I was vastly disappointed in a very good sandwich because I was expecting something else.  How often does that happen to us?  Think of the last time you went to a movie that people were raving about only to be let down when it didn't meet your expectations.  How often do we expect something different from what we get? And how often does that negatively affect our experience?  I am going to try to be less worried about what I expected and more focused on the good experience.  

So, thank you to that restaurant in LA for the outstanding pastrami sandwich.  It was delicious and the pastrami is certainly something for you to brag about.  But it was NOT a Reuben sandwich.


  1. I am definitely guilty of setting high expectations and being disappointed. It is interesting how where you live influences understanding. Soda, Pop, or a Coke anyone?
    And that frozen custard looks delicious! Love it!

  2. I love custard! Never had it until I was 30 and it is a rare treat to find where I live! My husband has a similar expectation of patty melts. He keeps an art-journal with the patty melt diaries as entries. I like you share a love of Reubens with corned beef. Thanks for the illumination about the history and connecting it to expectations. I have a new principal this year that everyone says I will love. I am hoping that holds true.

  3. I didn't expect the turn you took about expectations. I was ready to comment about food, but really the idea of expectations versus raw experience has got me thinking. How unexpected!