In The Pieces We Keep (Kensington, 2013), Kristina McMorris tells a modern story with a connection to the past. Twenty-first century widowed single mother Audra must get to the bottom of what’s troubling her young son, Jack. From night terrors to eerie drawings that his schoolteacher doesn’t approve of, the boy’s life seems fraught with turmoil. But when Audra suspects that her son may be having memories from a past life, her suspicions cause even more trouble for her small family.
Audra discovers connections between Jack’s memories and the WWII-era relationship of London-based Vivian and her former lover, Isaac. As a German Jew, Isaac is determined that his family be rescued at the outbreak of the war; he abandons Vivian, who flees to New York with her mother. Though she manages to move on with her life as a switchboard operator, Vivian can never shrug off the shadow of Isaac.
The best way that I could imagine connecting Vivian, Isaac, and Jack in the kitchen was with a good ol’ Reuben sandwich. A popular staple of New York delis, the Reuben is rumored to have first been created in Omaha, Nebraska in the 1950s. While Isaac would have been familiar with the sauerkraut of his homeland that is piled onto a Reuben, and Vivian was most likely a fan of New York delis, neither would have had the opportunity to enjoy one for more than a decade after their first meeting. But the sandwich immediately brings to mind the characters and their Jewish roots. These mile-high treats are simple and easy to make, but so packed with flavor that the dream combo of sauerkraut, corned beef, dressing, and cheese just melts in the mouth.
The Classic Reuben Sandwich
2lbs. cooked corned beef, hot
16 ounces sauerkraut, heated
4 ounces of sliced Swiss cheese
Slices marble rye bread, or swirled pumpernickel and rye
8 ounces thousand island or Russian dressing
Butter for toasting the sandwiches on a griddle
If you want, you can make your own dressing by mixing together a few tablespoons of ketchup, relish, and mayonnaise.
On a hot griddle, melt butter and lightly toast slices of the bread on one side. Two slices for each sandwich.
Flip the toasted side up and spread with dressing, then lay cheese slices on one side.
Add the hot corned beef to what will be the bottom slice, and the sauerkraut on top of that.
When the bread slices are toasted on the bottom and the cheese is melted, lay the cheesy slice over the sauerkraut and corned beef.
Transfer to a plate and cut in half, diagonally. Serve.
Yield: 6 to 8 sandwiches