I’m convinced I must be part Latina. I cannot explain the phenomenon that has caused me to appear Anglo-Saxon and not Puerto Rican, but I also cannot explain the excessive cravings I get for arroz y frijoles. I have traveled to Costa Rica and Mexico and worked in a Cuban restaurant and have consequently become infatuated with Latin American cuisine. It’s simple and inexpensive at its core, but spicy, incredibly satisfying, and rooted in tradition. Most of the recipes have been around for so long, Latinos and Latinas learn to master them at a young age. By the time they are adults, they are experts at giving each dish that coveted Latin flair that makes their food so deliciously addictive. Family and food are central to everything in Latin American culture, so each meal is prepared with love and eaten around the table with family. Not just parents and their children, mind you, but EVERY family member within a 5 mile radius. Families stay close together and lean on one another when times are tough, and I love this about their culture.
So. Why did writing this blog make me hungry? Recently, I watched the movie Chef, which you should see if you haven’t yet. The movie follows Jon Favreau as a chef who leaves his uninspired restaurant job to start a food truck. He calls the truck El Jefe and starts selling cubanos, medianoches, yuca frita, and arroz con pollo. Immediately, I was craving Cuban food. Like “OMG, need it now” craving. Quick Google search reveals that there are no Cuban restaurants in Birmingham. Want to cry. I started having flashbacks to my days working at the Cuban restaurant near my home in Atlanta. The cuban sandwich was our most popular menu item, followed by ropa vieja (shredded beef) and lechón asado (roast pork). After the customers left, I would order a plate of rice, beans, boiled yuca, and fried sweet plantains or sometimes tostones. That’s the best comfort food to me, and right now I’m wishing I could pay them a visit.
In the meantime, this Pressed Cubano with Bacon looks like a pretty tasty compromise.