The Rueben Sandwich: A Culinary Mystery Unraveled

A realistic image showcasing the Rueben sandwich's debated origin. On one side of the image, the German flag is prominently displayed, representing the common misconception of the sandwich's German roots. On the opposite side, the Irish flag is shown, symbolizing another popular belief about its Irish origin. In the center of the image, there is a large, realistically depicted Rueben sandwich, looking juicy and delicious, with intricate details showing the layers of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and dressing between slices of rye bread. The background is seamless, without any color bars, emphasizing the focus on the flags and the sandwich.

By Larry Billinger

The Origin Debate: A Tasty Puzzle

When it comes to the classic Rueben sandwich, its origin is as layered as the sandwich itself. Popular belief often swings between German or Irish roots, but here’s a twist: it’s neither! Let’s delve into this culinary conundrum with a dash of humor and uncover the true heritage of the Rueben sandwich.

The American Melting Pot: A Surprise Ingredient

Surprisingly, the Rueben sandwich, a mouth-watering combination of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing grilled between slices of rye bread, is not a product of distant European lands. Instead, its roots are firmly planted in the United States! Two main stories emerge, both set in early 20th-century America.

Omaha: The Heartland’s Hidden Gem

One story traces back to Omaha, Nebraska, where Reuben Kulakofsky, a Jewish Lithuanian-born grocer, reportedly whipped up the sandwich during a late-night poker game at the Blackstone Hotel in the 1920s. The hotel’s owner, Charles Schimmel, added it to the menu, and the rest, as they say, is delicious history.

New York City: The Big Apple’s Bite

The other tale takes us to the bustling streets of New York City. Arnold Reuben, the German owner of Reuben’s Delicatessen, is said to have created the sandwich in 1914. Legend has it that he made a special sandwich for an actress who visited his deli late at night, using what he had on hand, which happened to be rye bread, corned beef, Swiss cheese, and sauerkraut.

So, German or Irish? Nope, It’s American!

Despite the German-sounding name and ingredients that echo Irish-American cuisine, the Rueben sandwich is a unique creation of the American melting pot. It reflects the diversity and innovation of early 20th-century America, where cultural influences melded in the most appetizing ways.

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