In November 2003, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. I got to visit Cuba on a U.S. government-sanctioned cultural exchange trip. Up to that point, my life had intertwined with many Cubans who fled the island and settled in New York, Puerto Rico or Miami where I spent most of my time. I, therefore, knew much about Cuba, but not firsthand. In fact, I used to say it was “la lastima de mi vida” (life’s disappointment) that I had not had the opportunity to visit Cuba. A little melodramatic, perhaps, but I was that passionate about it. Sadly, when I did get to go in 2003, it was a drastically different Cuba than it was in 1959 when Castro took over. The glory days were long gone.
My trip was a half-dozen years before I started blogging but I wrote a travel essay at the time which I made part of the ‘travel retropspective’ category on FOODalogue. I have not edited it. It stands as I wrote it 7 years ago. I invite you to see Cuba as I saw it then.
These photos are not from the 1950s as they might seem. They were taken during my 2003 trip and show life in Cuba as it was when I visited.
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On to our Culinary Tour. Living in South Florida, life is widely (and wildly) influenced by the Cuban community… from the coffee that we drink, to the music that we listen to, to the restaurants we patronize and the clubs we dance in…to my kitchen. I’ve presented many Nuevo Latino and Cuban-inspired dishes on FOODalogue before so for this stop on the tour I really didn’t feel like making lechon (pork) or ropa vieja (shredded beef) — though I hope someone else does.
Instead, I put on Cuban music…some Celia Cruz with La Sonora Matancera from the old days followed by other favorites like Willie Chirino and Gloria Estefan, popular Cuban-Americans living in Miami. And then I salsa-ed my way into the kitchen to see what I could find to prepare for this stop.
Enchilado de Pescado (Snapper in a Spicy Creole Sauce)
1 whole Red Snapper filleted and sectioned in 3-4 inch pieces
Goya tomato sauce
red peppers or pimentos
splash of white wine
couple of capfuls of vinegar (white or cider)
fresh lime juice
Sazón or adobo seasoning
red chile flakes
Goya hot sauce
Season fish with olive oil, s+p, Sazón and lime juice and let sit about 15 minutes while you prepare and saute onion, garlic and peppers. Sear fish. Add liquids, other seasonings and condiments. Doesn’t take long to cook (15-20 minutes).
Microwave cassava in water to cover till tender, then dry thoroughly on paper towels before cutting into slices and pan frying with a little oil to crisp outside. Salt liberally.
Round-Up: Wednesday, March 10
Last Stop: Puerto Rico, on or about March 15