Dear Follow Your Heart,
When we met I was a brand new vegetarian.
All of my Thanksgivings had been spent with a dead bird on the table, and I wasn’t sure how I would navigate the holiday without the pink Jell-O fluff my aunt would bring to the potluck or the mashed potatoes slathered in meat-based gravy.
And then there you were with your thinly sliced seitan, mushroom gravy, and green bean casserole.
“Come in,” you said, “the water is fine.”
And so I did. With wide eyes I ate bite after bite and knew that I could do it.
If this was a vegetarian Thanksgiving, sign me up.
So we began our courting.
You were in Canoga Park, forty-five minutes from my house (in no traffic), but I would see you when I could.
Hop on the 5, walk through your grocery store, and to the bar where I’d sit, linger over the menu, weigh the options of the soup of the day, and order.
Our relationship got serious when I discovered your reuben with its generous layer of sauerkraut and house-made seitan. We took our relationship up a notch, and I’d drive down for a reuben, get the ingredients in your attached grocery to make my own, and eat reubens for days on end. You were my obsession.
And then, as love stories often do, we drifted apart.
I discovered newer, flashier restaurants that were closer to home, and then I moved states away. Your reuben became a glittered memory, a “remember when.” With the passing months and years, it became a story.
As I sampled vegan reubens from all over the country I wondered was your reuben still the best, would it still be my favorite if I had it now? Or was it a product of a time when the world of vegetarianism was new and your cookbook was one of the few on my shelves?
So when I entered your café last week, sat in my old familiar spot at the counter, and ordered a reuben, I waited to be disappointed. Surely you couldn’t measure up.
Then there you were – a sandwich of white on white on white – not as fancy as other reubens I’ve known and loved.
And with a bite, the magic was back, the eyes rolling back in the head, the moment of silence because nothing else can be spoken. The mild wheat meat and mild bread make way for the pop of flavor from the Thousand Island and gob of tart puckering sauerkraut.
They let the best parts speak for themselves, and the other sandwich elements stand back and let them have focus. They’re just texture while the true stars get their moment in the sun.
You’re still number one on my list, FYH, and not just for sentimental reasons. You’re that hard to find experience when the memory measures up.