For a while I have been anxious to step outside the recipe box and indulge in a closer look at food as it relates to culture, namely, Cuban culture. Yes, Cuba. Earlier this year, my husband and I traveled to that remarkable place on our honeymoon and discovered a lot about life and food. Cuba as a whole had always fascinated the student in me and the journalist in my husband; we relished the idea of the trip. And so we went. And my fascination only grew.
Unlike the intrinsic beauty of the Cuban culture, the food was less than appealing. In fact, hardly anything we ate was satisfying. From the local meat and rice to seafood and to pizzas and pastas (the country thrives on tourism), it was all disappointing from a foodie’s viewpoint. And the reasons were clear: food is a requirement, rather than a pleasure, and resources are sadly lacking.
However, there were two beautiful saving graces: breakfast and cocktails. Not together, obviously! Breakfast was hearty, an important meal. The standard fare for us, in a Cuban private house, was a crepe with simple sugar syrup, eggs any style, and a huge plate of fresh tropical fruits – these included banana, papaya, mango and the ever popular guayaba, or, by a more familiar name, guava. And of course there was freshly blended fruit juice and coffee. That coffee. I was in love. And I’m not a huge coffee drinker. It has a distinct, full flavor and is extremely strong. It’s also delicious. You can have it black or mixed in equal part with milk. Either way, fantastic. Completed with intriguing conversation, those Cuban breakfasts were just my style!
And now for the drinks: the mojitos in particular were impressive. I know, I know. Any drink can have that effect. But I’m not talking about alcohol content here, but rather, mixology. Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind for many when thinking of Havana is the rum. And that’s not an inaccurate impression. The production and sale of rum is a huge business in Cuba and consequently, the Cubans have got it down. As for the mojitos, I can only say this: it’s not the real thing if it isn’t made with Havana Club and perfectly fresh mint. The Cuban mojito is a recipe that I’m aspiring to perfect, so look out for that in a future post!
I can’t argue that it was a luxurious holiday. Far from it. But Cuba was incredible. It was colorful, captivating, alive, and so unique. The country is one of total juxtaposition. Those of you who have visited will know what I mean. The European, Caribbean and Latin American cultures merge so seamlessly in Havana, that my sense of situation was often deceived. Utterly limited people sang and danced as if they had not a care in the world. Stunning specimens of architecture crumbled, entirely neglected. The two of us, both experienced travelers, had never seen anything like it.
The Cubans and their food? Mas o menos. But the Cubans and their music, dance, conversation, wit and city? Vibrant in every sense. Words don’t quite do justice to this captivating place, so I will leave the rest to the photos and hope that they capture more of what is quintessentially Cuban.
Have you visited Cuba? What were your impressions? I’d love to know!
Guayaba Photo Credit: http://antidotonatural.info/5-razones-para-no-dejar-de-comer-guayabas/
Mojito Photo Credit: http://turismocuba-turismocubano.blogspot.com/2011_09_01_archive.html