hHave you ever had a fancy meal that really made you happy? Even for a fleeting moment, in the midst of food-induced euphoria?
I do not have. As part of my job, I have had the opportunity to go to some fine restaurants. Restaurants I probably couldn’t afford it normally. And I enjoy it, but at least part of it is knowing I have to enjoy it because of how much it would normally cost.
Yes, this parfait covered in truffle shavings is good, but is it really delicious?
Last weekend I ate something really delicious that wasn’t in a fancy restaurant, and it only cost £10. I had my first Cuban sandwich.
If you’ve seen chefThe movie with Jon Favreau, you’ll know what kind of sandwich I’m talking about, buttered bread stuffed with ham, on a slice of ham with mustard and cucumber (in some cases cheese too). In the movie, Chef Carl Casper replaces his fine-dining restaurant with a food truck selling Cuban sandwiches.
I saw him recently and became fascinated with the dirty sandwiches he was making. It was dripping with fat and frying, it was full of meat, pouring the sides. Fortunately for me there is a place that serves Cuban food near where I live, and a little cafe called The View Tube café and so I did, I got one.
It was a proper dining experience. Pulled pork, filtered with fat, and mustard slightly warm the mouth, and gherkin cool it again. There’s a steak of ham out there for who knows why it’s not pure tasty, and the sandwich is filling.
I love every moment of it. I loved the tears in the eyes. I have never had this experience in a fancy restaurant where they cut my plate with green spots of anything.
Food should not be drugged; It shouldn’t be too clean and lack personality. I think all of these things have a place, but for me food is cultural, it can tell a story about a place. Most of our favorite foods like pizza can tell a story, usually about poverty, people using what they have to produce cheap but satisfying food. This is why I love what is called street food, it is unpretentious, does not try to be anything other than what it is, and is passed down from generation to generation. Although I have a problem when people charge bourgeois prices for it.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, movement between Cuba and Florida was easy. Workers from Cuba would come to Florida to work in cigar factories, and people who were already working in cigar factories in Cuba would eat Cuban sandwiches for lunch. Many believe that this is how the sandwich made its way to America and into the hearts of both Americans and Cubans in the diaspora.
Like British pancakes, then, this is a food with a history of manufacture. The pie crusts weren’t meant to be eaten, they had to be grabbed by miners’ hands covered in charcoal and thrown away when the rest of the pie was finished. They were full of meat because that was considered the best for manual labor. The same can be said of Cubans who are full of meat to keep the workers going.
Do you get that with pea puree served on a single piece of garlic-covered bread and a plate drizzled with cranberry drops?
Give me a Cubanos sandwich any day of the week. Food should be comforting and it should always be delicious.