As an enthusiastic eater of all things tasty and delicious, I am hereby dedicating an entire category of this blog to FOOD. This section will likely have the most photographs of the categories, as taking pictures of my food is my second favorite thing…next to eating it! Given the overwhelming popularity of food travel shows in the US, I am assuming that others share my interests in cultural food, so I will do my best to be your Anthony Bourdain here in Cuba.
Something interesting happens to “Cuban food” when you get to Cuba: It in no way resembles the Cuban food we get in the US! Yes, congris (white rice cooked with black beans) is a staple. Yes, pork in all forms and deliciously fried sweet ripe plantains are abundant. Absent from Cuban tables, however, are the mojitos, ropa vieja, and Cuban sandwiches that exist in every state-side Cuban restaurant. There is a myth of Cuban food throughout the US, and even the tourist hotels here on the island, insisting that food in Cuba has not changed with the times. The harsh reality of scarcity of resources in 21st century Cuba, however, trumps this pre-revolutionary culinary fairytale. The myth of Cuban cuisine aside, however, I am in food heaven down here!! (Please note I said food heaven, not foodIE heaven, as I recommend that “foodies” travel elsewhere if they want a culinary tour in the Caribbean or Latin America.)
A walk of 5-10 minutes anywhere in Habana will land you smack in the middle of huge outdoor agros (markets) with selections of fresh produce that changes daily. Yucca is a wonder food, in my opinion, and must replace the potato as the starch staple in the world. Grapefruits here are green, garlic is tiny and avocados are GINORMOUS! Cuban mayonnaise is homemade and garlicky and tart and delicious on Cuban bread, and mermalada de guayaba, the Cuban answer to applesauce, is an incredibly sweet treat. (As a side note: Applesauce and Mayonnaise are the only two things I will not eat back home.) All of this is enough to make anyone wonder why the desperate attempt in the hotels and in the US to hold on to a culinary past that is no longer the reality for today’s Cubans.
So, my dear readers, I am here to shatter the illusion of “the Cuban sandwich”, end the run of the ropa vieja, and dethrone the mojito. It is time to replace the myth with the very yummy and very different REALITY of food in Cuba today.
These posts have no rules or guidelines, if it is edible (or at least non-toxic), I will write about it! This includes drinks, typical meals, snacks, restaurants, unique fruits, recipes, photos, the role of food in Cuban daily life and much more. Also, as I learn my way around a Cuban kitchen, I will share photos of my concoctions and tips for anyone wanting to try their hand at home-style Cuban cooking.
In my quest to correct misconceptions about Cuba, food is a simple yet essential step. Most US Americans assume that Cuban food is exactly what they see in restaurants. Many less adventurous eaters go around thinking that Cubans eat chips and salsa, tacos and enchiladas, like many of our other neighbors to the south…a rather amusing error as the tortilla as we know it in the US does not exist in Cuba, thereby eliminating any hope for tacos, burritos or the tortilla chip. Ultimately, little steps like understanding the culinary tradition of a country and its people can bring you one step closer to understanding the culture.
To my readers: Having read the introduction for this blog category, if you have a relevant topic or event that you would like to learn more about, please mention it in the ‘COMMENTS’ section of this page. (Even if it is not in Habana, I am happy to travel to the other provinces for a good story!) I will do my best to research and write on all suggested topics.