Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Rueful Reuben

Shelley Postman shared this video with me a while ago, and I've been meaning to post it here on Blog Time Passing.  It's a marvelous bit of fun, one that speaks to some issues that exist within the Jewish community, and that can be generalized to other groups as well.  In one sense, it serves as a parable of the conflict between orthodox and reform, literal, and liberal, fundamentalist and metaphorical approaches to a sacred text or canon or tradition.  In another sense, it reflects the conflict between east and west coasts, specifically between New York as an old world, elitist center, and Los Angeles as the new world where people feel free to recreate their identities.  But go ahead, take a look, it's worth your while:

Over on YouTube, the write-up for A Reuben By Any Other Name is as follows:

Noble Savage Productions and Sonny Boy Studios are thrilled to announce that we have completed our short comedy "A Reuben By Any Other Name." The film takes a humorous look at the differences between Orthodox and Reform Judaism played out in terms of the differences between the New York and Los Angeles versions of the Reuben sandwich. Brilliant performances are provided by an ensemble cast of familiar faces from film and television - Jasmine Anthony (Stephen King's 1408, Commander in Chief), Anita Barone (The War at Home, Daddio), Paul Ben-Victor (In Plain Sight, Entourage), Larry Cedar (The Crazies, Deadwood), Pamela Cedar, Alanna Ubach (Hung, Legally Blonde), and Matt Winston (John from Cincinnati, Little Miss Sunshine). Are you an Orthodox or Reform Reubenite? Watch the film and find out!

And so, you might be wondering which category do I fall into?  Well, I don't keep kosher, although I do have some preferences that are rooted in the kosher laws, and I avoid some foods for the same reason.  It's aesthetic, and cultural, for me, rather than religious.  But in this, I'm pretty much with the little girl.   The delis I remember from when I was growing up, including the Pastrami King in Kew Gardens, Queens, which was often referred to in the columns of famous New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin, were kosher, and something like the Reuben sandwich was never on the menu.  My first encounter with it was in Greek diners in New York City, although I later saw that some Manhattan delis served it as well.  But I really don't see how the Reuben could be a Jewish sandwich, no more than the Philly cheesesteak, or your basic, run-of-the-mill cheeseburger.  It's just not kosher!

If you have a similar encounter with the Reuben, or a different one, well, feel free to share in the comment section, I'd be interested to hear about it! 
And so, the lesson is, both sides are right, both sides are wrong, and no one knows where the truth lies, so why don't we all just get along?  And have a good laugh at ourselves in the process?


Robert K. Blechman said...

An interesting controversy, but really just a subset of the much broader question "Who moved my cheese?" Has the cheese always been there on the reuben sandwich, did it evolve, or is it the product of intelligent design? If the latter, who was the primary mover? Must we attribute it to God, or can we account for it by the laws of physics?

Did I mention that my Hebrew name is Reuben?

Lance Strate said...

Oy! Hey, Rube, don't make it bad... I just can't get over your rye sense of humor!

Martin Friedman said...

Pastrami King! Brings back good memories. Best knishes around, too.

Any similar controversy over the pastrami Reuben? Saw that on the menu at a diner last week.

Either way, still great eating!