Is There Such a Thing as Cuban Food?
History of Cuban Cuisine
Is there such a thing as Cuban food? And, what really is Cuban food? When we think of the different indigenous ethnic groups in North/South America, we tend to forget that Cuba's history is a bit different than most. For starters, unlike Mexico and our own country the US of A, there are very few Native American Peoples living in Cuba - that is to say, it's rare to find someone in Cuba whom will associate themselves with the Native Americans - most Cubans will tell you that they are perhaps of European, African, Arab, Jewish or even of Chinese ancestry, but it's rare to find an individual in Cuba whom will admit to being of Native American Ancestry.
When we walk into a Cuban bakery - there are some excellent Cuban bakeries in Los Angeles by the way.... People - ironically enough - Cuban people, will ask for a loaf or portion of their famous and delicious bread "dame un pan Cubano," well, the so called 'Cuban bread', is really French bread. - Yes, it may have a stronger and more accented flavor than French bread does (due to Cuba's Creole culture which will be discussed later on), nonetheless, it's French bread, not really Cuban bread.
Cuban pastries are no different - Cuban pastries are really just a combination of French pastries, but with a higher sugar content. Sugar is big on the island of Cuba. Cuban sugar canes were practically worshiped by the Soviets during Russia's occupation of Cuba; Cuban sugar is sweeter and tastier than most, due to their succulent canes. Sugar canes are also used to make delicious shakes known as "guarapo."
The three cultures which have influenced Cuba the most were: Spain, France and Africa. Cuba's so called Creole cooking, is really just a combination of French and African cuisine. Cuban food has also been influenced by the Chinese. Creole cooking is merely French food but with stronger spices; seasonings and strong spices seem to be the defining point in most Creole cuisines, and Cuban food is no exception to this rule. But to pose the question again: is there really such a thing as Cuban food?
Here are a list of some of Cuba's most famous and delicious main entrees:
1. Camarones en Salsa Criollo (Shrimps in Creole Sauce) - typically served with white rice
2. Rabo Encendido (Ox Tail) - typically served with white rice
3. Carne con Papa (Meat and Potatoes) - typically served with white rice
4. Tortilla con Jamon y Papas Fritas (Omelet with Ham and French fries) - typically served with rice and black beans
5. Media Noche Sandwich (Midnight Sandwich - ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard) - typically served with French fries.
So again, is there such a thing as Cuban food? Most would say yes, but you cannot ignore all of the different cultures that went into making it what it is today.