Often times when it comes to the food that we consume, we appreciate the local specialties: chicken, hamburgers, barbeque, fish, and pizza. Let’s get out of the box folks! There is a whole world of edible delights that we might consider undiscovered while the natives of that particular region consider them normality. Growing up in Miami, I was introduced to Cuban cooking. My godfather, Adan Jimenez, was a Cuban native and introduced my grandmother to many popular dishes that are still a delicacy today. The Cuban way of preparing a dish is rather simple, but the flavor remains a challenge. It should be noted that a great portion of Cuban food owes its very tradition and heritage to that of the Caribbean and African cultures. However, there are two peculiar methods of cooking: “the classic” method, whose techniques and ingredients have been in use for a long time across the island, and “the new” method labeled “Nuevo Cubano,” which combines a great variety of herbs and spices from other culinary traditions. For example, the province of Oriente in eastern Cuba is well known for introducing spicier and heartier dishes to the cuisine of the island due to the influx of Haitian and Jamaican immigrants to the island as far back as the 1790’s. In the states, Cubans have also decided to choose hot peppers to prepare such recipes as black bean salsa.
The United States does not have many of the vegetables, meats, fruits, and oils that Cubans commonly use to prepare their dishes. Lard and olive oil, which are generally used in Cuban cooking, had to be replaced by other cooking oils. Lard was too difficult to find and olive oil was too expensive; a substitute had to be found. American cooks started using vegetable oil, which was readily available and affordable. Nowadays, safflower and canola oils have become more preferable because they are healthier. Many items are now also available in low-fat versions. The consumption of salt has also been cut back thanks to low-sodium products.
Many Cubans have eliminated the starches they consume in hopes of contributing to a much healthier diet. Because of the lack of time in their day-to-day life, many buy products, such as black beans (Negro frijoles), because preparing them from scratch takes up a considerable amount of time. In addition, Cubans have added more salads to their diet, use fewer sauces, and prepare fewer pottages (stews); they have also incorporated more American foods into their daily life because their children are exposed to these American foods at school and through their acquaintance with endless chains of fast food restaurants in their communities. Rice with chicken (arroz con pollo) is just one of the popular dishes. Breakfast in Cuba usually consists of café con leche and tostada (coffee with milk and Cuban toast). Today, many have grown to enjoy egg sand ham along with their traditional tostada and café con leche. I had embraced this culture and so many other, My favorites are plantains, yucca, and batidos, which is a malted shake type of beverage; there is a land full of wonderful discovery through each culture, take a trip down this great land your life will never be the same.