Second Sandwich and going strong...
When I was growing up we had a delicatessen right down the street. It began as just a counter in 1945 and then grew into a full-fledged restaurant. My father had a charge account at this deli called Nate ‘n Al’s, and it was a heavenly place. Soon enough, it became a Beverly Hill’s legend. Still, on any given day, you can find Hollywood moguls making deals or a legendary actor or actress sitting in the avocado green vinyl booths of this infamous deli.
I remember the Beverly’s and Westwood’s of my youth. These were the names of the mouth-watering sandwiches bulging with turkey or roast beef, slathered in Russian dressing and coleslaw. Two perfect pieces of rye bread held this bit of paradise together. And then there were the most delectable pickles complimenting your perfect sandwich.
Every once in a while, my mom would order cold cuts from Nate ‘n Al’s and bring them home for dinner. I can’t really remember why, but these evenings stand out as the special ones. Perhaps it was her German roots, but Mom would present this ordinary tray of cold cuts and make it look like she was serving the King of England.
Living in Northern California, I’ve yet to find a deli that I like. I know Nate ‘n Al’s is a hard act to follow, but I’ve tried them all. Nothing comes close.
Recently, I discovered that I could create my own version of the perfect deli. I found a great market that will cut my roast beef, my turkey, my French ham, my salami perfectly. And they have huge, succulent pickles and fairly good coleslaw. I have perfected my own Russian dressing, but I have learned to live without the rye bread. Nobody can make rye like my favorite deli. So, instead I resort to some of our rustic sourdough. I try and buy vine-ripened cherry red tomatoes and fresh romaine lettuce.
I had no idea that my kids would love this dinner as much as I did. I can see in their sparkling eyes that they delight when I don’t cook and they get to make their own sandwiches. It is their little bit of heaven.
When we head down to LA, the first place the kids want to go is Nate ‘n Al’s. I know that my attempt at imitating the cold cuts of my youth is still appreciated…but there really is nothing like Nate ‘n Al’s.
And there is nothing like watching my 13-year-old son bite into his perfect sandwich. “I’m growing, Mom,” he says as he makes his second sandwich. And he smiles at me as he takes another enormous bite.
That’s my 13-year-old! Hard to believe. I look at my little boy with the huge sandwich and finally understand how he got to be taller than I!
Did you have a favorite meal when you were a kid? Do your kids have their favorite dinners? What is it about food and memories that seem to resonate? Have you ever walked into your elementary school cafeteria and felt like you were transported back in time?