Food - Drink
The Hotly Contested Origin Of The Reuben Sandwich
By LISA CURRAN MATTE
The Reuben sandwich, a New York deli staple of Swiss cheese, corned beef, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing on Russian rye bread, has two hotly-contested origin stories. The first comes from Elizabeth Weil, who penned an article for The New York Times saying that her grandfather, Bernard Schimmel, invented the Reuben in Nebraska.
Per Weil, when her grandfather's friend Reuben Kulakofsky asked for a corned beef and sauerkraut sandwich during a card game at the Blackstone Hotel, Schimmel put his own spin on it before serving it to his friend. Weil's article prompted a response from food historian Andrew Smith, who took issue with the family legend.
Smith insists the Reuben was created in 1914 by New York deli owner Arnold Reuben, but he acknowledges that the Omaha, Nebraska Reuben is a real thing. He cites a 1941 cookbook’s recipe for a Reuben as proof, though the recipe is missing corned beef, and also offered to reconsider his position if Weil could produce proof of her own.
Researchers at the Douglas County Historical Society eventually discovered a 1934 menu from the Blackstone Hotel that offers the Reuben for 40 cents, which precedes the 1941 recipe offered by Smith. However, Smith's claim that the sandwich was born in 1914, if true, would beat 1934 by 20 years, so the Reuben's origins remain mysterious.