There's a familiar sourness as we arrive at Greg's mother's for Christmas Eve brunch. Gladys is serving her Reuben.
What is a Reuben?
A grilled sandwich. The traditional Reuben is thinly sliced corned beef, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut on rye bread with Russian or Thousand Island salad dressing.
Greg's family isn't Russian. They do have a cottage in the scenic Thousand Islands, though. I've never been. Greg went every weekend this past summer while I worked. Didn't want to disappoint his mother or, he said with a wry smile, be home alone all day. Waiting. Bored. He took the dog so he wouldn't be bored either. I'd come home to an empty house, get all teary and corny, and call Greg.
He rarely let me talk to the dog. Apparently, the retriever was always busy retrieving. How I missed big Barney, a Labrador the colour of Swiss cheese. Gladys gave him to Greg at our engagement party.
How to make a Reuben
Gladys hasn't shared. Greg talks about her Reuben with great fondness, but doesn't know how to make one for me. Me, the future mother of his children and quite possibly one named Reuben. When we're in bed and he's hungry and I won't roll over, he insists I not worry about it. Not want one. Want only him. But if I work him just right, Greg will squeal I shouldn't attempt his mother's Reuben. She doesn't want that.
So I'm speculating here, being watched far too closely to actually dissect the sandwich.
Spread the dressing on one side of the rye bread. Use rye with seeds that'll irritate and require private picking in Gladys' lavender bathroom.
Lay the holey (holier-than-thou) cheese and the corned beef on the dressing then spoon sauerkraut on top.
Unable to confirm, but it's probably canned sauerkraut. Greg won't confess no matter what I do to him.
Seal your fate with another slice of rye.
Place the sandwich on a hot skillet. Gladys has a fancy griddle.
Carefully turn until golden brown on both sides.
How to serve a Reuben
On Gladys' groaning holiday table are pickles—I ignore the disappointingly limp dills lest Greg think I'm referencing last night—and roast potatoes and blistered sausages still spitting. I'm solemnly offered a choice of salad or vegetable soup. Greg gets both. He crumbs and slops on the tablecloth, a lacy antique I'm terrified we'll inherit someday even if Gladys takes the sandwich to the grave. Greg will be inconsolable.
Karen's (she/her) work is in or forthcoming in A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Bullshit Lit, Janus Literary, JAKE, L'Esprit Literary Review, Moon Cola Zine, Neuro Logical, Bulb Culture Collective, SugarSugarSalt Lit, boats against the current, and others. @MeKawalker883