"This sandwich is awful."


Sharing Stories
September 2, 2023 at 2:06 p.m.
French Dip Sandwich (Not a French Drenched Sandwich.)
French Dip Sandwich (Not a French Drenched Sandwich.)

...by April Ryan



A group of friends and I were talking about childhood vacation memories. I had become a seasoned traveler when every other year we went to Hoboken, New Jersey, to see Gramma and Grampa. Three days and three nights of planned routes on the folded highway map to get there. I rode in the backseat, except when it was Mom’s turn to drive, then Dad stretched out in the back of the car for a nap, all six feet, four inches of him bent like a pretzel, but sometimes his size 13 triple E shoes hung out the side window. That was Mom’s time to veer off the highway to interesting roadside attractions, like the first Pony Express Station, or a bumpy ride on a long one lane dirt road to ancient petroglyphs painted on a mountainside. Dad enjoyed our surprise adventures, after he woke up wondering if we were lost.

Of course, there were the planned stops. Yellowstone Park with roaming buffalo, and Old Faithful Geyser in Wyoming. Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, and the Corn Palace, special South Dakota sights. Many wondrous and inspiring things to see while traveling across America. 

I was nine, maybe ten years old when we drove into Reno “The Biggest Little City in the World.” The neon lights’ colorful glows made me feel like we’d entered another planet or Hollywood movie set. Mom, Dad, and I were spotlighted stars, greeted “Welcome” at every casino by cheerful costumed smiling people. The musical bing-bing-bing of bells at the slot machines announced jackpot winners. Dad laughed, informing me they were called One Armed Bandits for a reason, even so, he did put in some change and gave those one-arm-bandits a pull. No triple cherries and bells for him that night.

We went to the Prima Donna Casino to have dinner in the fancy restaurant. Everyone working dressed in eye popping costumes. Mom and Dad explained a Prima Donna was the star opera singer, and they were sometimes called a Diva because they were very demanding.

Reading the menu, I found what I wanted, a French dip, with French fries and a salad. Yum. My tummy was growling when the waiter set down my plate. I looked at my sandwich and didn’t know what to do. It was soggy and icky. There was no cup for au jus to dip in the wet messy French roll. It was no French dip I knew. I was an experienced traveler and had eaten at Howard Johnson’s off the turnpike on the way east. I sat staring at the worst sandwich I had ever seen.

Mom asked what was wrong. As I tried to explain the problem, my lip quivered, and tears filled my eyes. I finally squeaked out the words, “This sandwich is awful.” She looked at the soggy mess and agreed, calling the waiter to our table, and told him this wasn’t a French dip. The waiter disagreed. Mom demanded to talk to the chef. The chef with his big, puffy white hat came to the table. He informed us he had made hundreds of French dips that way, pouring the au jus over the sandwich, and never had a complaint. Until now. Mom let him know how to make a real French dip, and he walked away mumbling. Soon, a real and proper French dip sandwich was set down in front of me, with the chef’s apologies. Finally, it was a great sandwich, with a big cup of au jus.

Dad smiled, telling us the waiter and chef probably thought we were a true pair of Divas in the Prima Donna Casino. We agreed it was time they learned how to make a decent French dip. I always think of Mom speaking up when I order a French dip. Funny, the things remembered on an adventurous trip.

April Ryan, author of her book April Blossoms has written numerous stories and poems, including some prize winners and many for Northwest Prime Time.

SHARING STORIES is a weekly column for and about the 50 plus crowd living in the Puget Sound region. Send your stories and photos to ariele@comcast.net. Tell local or personal stories; discuss concerns around aging and other issues; share solutions, good luck, and reasons to celebrate; poems are fine too. Pieces may be edited or excerpted. We reserve the right to select among pieces. Photos are always a plus and a one-sentence bio is requested (where you live, maybe age or career, retired status, etc.).
SHARING STORIES is featured on www.northwestprimetime.com, the website
for Northwest Prime Time, a monthly publication for baby boomers, seniors, retirees, and those contemplating retirement. For more information, call 206-824-8600 or visit www.northwestprimetime.com. To find other SHARING STORIES articles on this website type "sharing stories" or a writer’s name into the search function above.
Share this story!