Elena Ruz Valdes-Fauli, a Cuban socialite who is now in her early twenties, used to go to a performance or a movie after work and then have a late-night lunch with friends at the restaurant El Carmelo in Havana. It was an off-menu order that she ate every day: a turkey sandwich on medianoche bread with cream cheese and strawberry preserves on the side.
The sandwich had to be explained several times before she persuaded the restaurant’s management to include it on the menu so that customers could order it more easily. She returned to the restaurant at some time in the late 1920s or early 1930s (no one recalls when) to find her name illuminated in neon lights and the sandwich listed on the menu for 25 cents.
A friend of Ms. Valdés-had Fauli’s a dream that the sandwich would become famous, and she believed it to be true. That’s exactly what happened. When Cubans fled the island during the Cuban revolution, the sandwich was left behind as a memento.
Elena Ruz sandwiches may still be seen on the menus of traditional Cuban restaurants like Versailles, La Carreta, and Pinecrest Bakery, over a century after the sandwich was first served.
Using butter and medianoche bread — a sweeter, softer relative of Cuban bread that is akin to brioche — Mr. Llizo’s restaurant prepares sandwiches that are stuffed with thinly sliced turkey breast, Philadelphia cream cheese, and Smuckers’ strawberries before heating them.
Despite the fact that her mother died in 2011, Ms. Ulacia believes that she did not want butter on her sandwich. Chefs, on the other hand, have discovered that it helps brown the toasted Elena Ruz.
Mr. Llizo claims that, despite the sandwich’s long-standing popularity, it is seldom requested today. Young Cubans are losing sight of the sandwich and its significance in the country’s history. He was surprised to learn that most of the Cuban parents had never heard of Ms. Valdés-Fauli until his daughter accompanied tiny Elena Ruz sandwiches to her elementary school for a presentation on the author.
His Elena Ruthless is a riff on the original Elena Ruz, using homemade guava marmalade in place of the strawberry preserves and bacon thrown into the mix to make it a little more substantial. As a result of the sloppy sandwich’s preparation, he keeps it on his secret menu.
In reality, the Elena Ruz has been interpreted in a variety of ways, something with which her daughter takes issue, at least when it comes to the dish’s historical origins.