Cuban Cooking 101 • Learning about Culture through Recipes and Kitchen Experiences

For my upcoming cookbook, Comida Cubana, I spent time with over a dozen gracious chefs and home cooks in Cuba learning recipes and cooking techniques. The full length cookbook features dozens of illustrated recipes from the island nation including entrees, salads, cocktails, and advice on preparation methods and finding the best ingredients. But ultimately, the cookbook reflects my experience learning about a culture of a place through cooking with its people and gaining a first hand understanding of authentic dishes.

Authentic Cuban food, known as Comida Criollo, is a cuisine of simple flavors, with uncomplicated ingredients. Many dishes that are famous in Cuba are known in other countries, like Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice), and Ropa Vieja (“Old Clothes”-Shredded Beef). Moros y Cristianos (Black Beans and Rice) are staples there. Ironically, the sandwich we consider a mainstay of the country, El Cubano, isn’t actually Cuban. It was invented in Tampa, Florida, a product of Cuban immigrants that bears a likeness to El Mixto, which you find all over in Cuba, a sandwich of multiple meats without the mustard or pickles.

Beyond the recipes, what truly captivated my interest during were the Cuban methods of preparation and the development of a meal plan when resources are limited. The way in which we procured the ingredients, such as seafood, through a neighbor fisherman, spices and produce through the one of the many open air markets, and flour at the government-run supermarket, was always dynamic and never the same experience.

I have learned so much from my Cuban friends and I’m excited to share it with you in my second illustrated cookbook project based on recipes from my travels. You can order your book here!