More Pasta Please…
Yesterdays blog was an introduction to the history of the “Americas”. Today, I would like to talk about a few of the cuisines of Latin America. Specifically, three, Cuba, Mexico and Jamaica. All geographically close together, but miles apart on style and flavours. lets go!
Cuban cuisine is a blend of African, Spanish, and other Caribbean cuisines. Some Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. This results in a blend of the several different cultural influences. A small but noteworthy Chinese influence can also be accounted for, mainly in the Havana area. There is also some Italian influence. During colonial times, Cuba was an important port for trade, and many Spaniards who lived there brought their culinary traditions with them.
As a result of the colonization of Cuba by Spain, one of the main influences on the cuisine is from Spain. Other culinary influences include Africa, from the Africans who were brought to Cuba as slaves, and French, from the French colonists who came to Cuba from Haiti. Another factor is that Cuba is an island, making seafood something that greatly influences Cuban cuisine. Another contributing factor to Cuban cuisine is that Cuba is in a tropical climate, which produces fruits and root vegetables that are used in Cuban dishes and meals.
A typical meal consists of rice and beans, cooked together or apart. When cooked together the recipe is called “congri” or “Moros” or “Moros y Cristianos” (black beans and rice). If cooked separately it is called “arroz con frijoles” (rice with beans) or “arroz y frijoles” (rice and beans). Another example is a Cuban sandwich.
A Cuban sandwich (sometimes called a mixto, especially in Cuba is a popular lunch item that grew out of the once-open flow of cigar workers between Cuba and Florida (specifically Key West and the Ybor City neighborhood of Tampa) in the late 19th century and has since spread to other Cuban American communities.
The sandwich is built on a base of lightly buttered Cuban bread and contains sliced roast pork, thinly sliced Serrano ham, Swiss cheese, dill pickles, and yellow mustard. In Tampa, Genoa salami is traditionally layered in with the other meats, probably due to influence of Italian immigrants who lived side-by-side with Cubans and Spaniards in Ybor City. Tomatoes and lettuce are available additions in many restaurants, but these are considered by traditionalists as an unacceptable Americanization of the sandwich.
After assembly, the Cuban sandwich may be pressed in a grooveless panini-type grill called a plancha, which both heats and compresses the contents. Yummy! Cuba has historically taken a beating in terms of its cuisine being weak. In my experience, this is false. Having spent considerable time there, I found you have to get out of the resorts to really experience the culture & food. This could be said for most tropical tourism destinations. The best experiences i have had food wise, were off the beaten path. Resorts to me basically suck!!
Mexican cuisine consists of the cooking cuisines and traditions of the modern country of Mexico. Its roots lie in Mesoamerican cuisine. Its ingredients and methods begin with the first agricultural communities such as the Maya who domesticated maize, created the standard process of maize nixtamalization, and established their foodways (Maya cuisine). Successive waves of other Mesoamerican groups brought with them their own cooking methods. These included: the Olmec, Teotihuacanos, Toltec, Huastec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Otomi, Purépecha, Totonac, Mazatec, Mazahua, and Nahua. With the Mexica formation of the multi-ethnic Triple Alliance (Aztec Empire), culinary foodways became infused (Aztec cuisine). Today’s food staples are native to the land and include: corn (maize), beans, squash, amaranth, chia, avocados, tomatoes, tomatillos, cacao, vanilla, agave, turkey, spirulina, sweet potato, cactus, and chili pepper. Its history over the centuries has resulted in regional cuisines based on local conditions, including Baja Med, Chiapas, Veracruz, Oaxacan, and the American cuisines of New Mexican and Tex-Mex.
After the Spanish Conquest of the Aztec empire and the rest of Mesoamerica, Spaniards introduced a number of other foods, the most important of which were meats from domesticated animals (beef, pork, chicken, goat, and sheep), dairy products (especially cheese and milk), rice, sugar, olive oil and various fruits and vegetables. Various cooking styles and recipes were also introduced from Spain both throughout the colonial period and by Spanish immigrants who continued to arrive following independence. Spanish influence in Mexican cuisine is also noticeable in its sweets such as: alfajores, alfeniques, borrachitos and churros.
Mexican cuisine is an important aspect of the culture, social structure and popular traditions of Mexico. The most important example of this connection is the use of mole for special occasions and holidays, particularly in the South and Central regions of the country. For this reason and others, traditional Mexican cuisine was inscribed in 2010 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. A very complex and sophisticated cuisine which could take a lifetime to understand, definitely on my top ten list of favourite cultures and food.
Jamaican cuisine includes a mixture of cooking techniques, flavours and spices influenced by Amerindian, African, Irish, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern people who have inhabited the island. It is also influenced by the crops introduced into the island from tropical Southeast Asia. All of which are now grown locally in Jamaica. A wide variety of seafood, tropical fruits and meats are available.
Some Jamaican dishes are variations on cuisines brought to the island from elsewhere. These are often modified to incorporate local produce and spices. Others are novel or fusion and have developed locally. Popular Jamaican dishes include curry goat, fried dumplings, and ackee and saltfish. Jamaican patties along with various pastries, breads and beverages are also popular.
Jamaican cuisine has spread with emigrants, especially during the 20th century, from the island to other nations as Jamaicans have sought economic opportunities in other countries.
African cuisine developed on the island as a result of waves of slavery such as rice and peas, Callaloo from the Angolan dish “Calulu”, and Jerk chicken from West African seasoning techniques. The fruit of the most popular Jamaican dish, Ackee, was also brought to the Island by West African peoples. The Spanish, the first European arrivals to the island, contributed dishes such as the vinegary escovitch fish (Spanish escabeche) contributed by Spanish Jews. Later, Cornish which could be argued influenced the development of the Jamaican patty, a pasty styled turnover filled with spiced meat. More Chinese and East Indian influences can also be found in Jamaican cuisine like Roti and Curry Goat as a result of indentured labourers who replaced slaves after emancipation brought their own culinary talents (especially curry, which Jamaican chefs sometimes use to season goat meat for special occasions).
Jamaican cuisine and the Rastafarians
Jamaican cuisine includes Rastafarian influences but not entirely. Rastafarians have a vegetarian approach to preparing food, cooking, and eating, and have introduced a host of unique vegetarian dishes to the Jamaican cuisine. Rastafarians do not eat pork. However, pork is a very popular dish in Jamaica. Stew pork and jerk pork are some of the most popular ways to prepare it. There are even some who believe in cooking with little or no salt, which is referred to as the ‘Ital‘ way.
Thanks for dropping buy! If your looking to expand your horizons culturally, travel and education is the only way. Check out www.scratchtours.com to see interesting, upcoming destinations geared towards off grid travel. Have an awesome weekend! Cheers!!