The essence of Cuban cuisine

Our good friend Liz Balmaseda from the Palm Beach Post reviews the Cuban cookbook of another good friend of ours, Raquel Rabade Roque:

Raquel Rabade Roque’s cookbook captures the essence of Cuban cuisine

Cubans are downright evangelical about food, singing its praises in rumba-marked songs on chocolate and sugar, rum and pork, speaking reverently of basic ingredients: the bay leaf that scents black beans, the smashed garlic that infuses a good pork rub, the squeeze of sour orange in the marinade.

But Cuban cuisine is not defined entirely by its ingredients. It’s defined by It’s the creamy-sweet chicken salad at your cousin’s baby shower, the fish-fry sandwich you eat standing at the counter of La Camaronera seafood joint in Miami, the after-school snack you still crave – sweetened condensed milk stirred into a glass of malta (malt beverage).

It’s as much these things as it is the roast pig at Christmas Eve.

South Florida author Raquel Rabade Roque captures this truth in her newly released cookbook, The Cuban Kitchen ( $20, Knopf). In 500 simple recipes, she tells the story of a cuisine rooted in Spanish and African flavors and shaped by its migrations, humble dreams and high society seductions.

“Cuba is everywhere. Cuba is in Cuba, but Cuba is also in South Florida – and a lot of people don’t know that,” says Roque, who left her native Havana at age 11.

Roque owns a bookstore in downtown Miami, where she has raised three children on hybrid Cuban-American dishes.

8 thoughts on “The essence of Cuban cuisine”

  1. Funny, she doesn’t look Cuban. Of course, neither does Alberto. Or Val, really. Henry, maybe, in a Belen sort of way. No wonder Cuba experts don’t respect Babalu.

  2. For those who may wonder, I don’t look Cuban, either. I look Jewish, or at least some Orthodox Jews in Miami Beach seem to think so.

  3. 26 years ago, 1985 to be exact, I was walking along So. Beach minding my own business. Two attractive young women in bikinis came up to me and said, “Are you Jewish?” No, soy Cubano I said. They both looked disappointed and walked away. I’m telling you I was way more disappointed than they were. I said, “Wait, I speak English. Do you want me to be Jewish?” No dice. I know it’s shallow, but that’s one time I wished that I was Jewish. I don’t feel that way anymore, but at the time I definitely did.

  4. Years ago, when I had a full Abe Lincoln type beard (and moustache), I was riding a bicycle on the bike trail by Old Cutler Road in Coconut Grove when a motorist stuck his head out his window and very angrily yelled at me to “GO BACK TO ISRAEL” and quickly drove off. After the initial surprise I got a good laugh out of it.

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