Posted by admin on 07/20/09 in travels
A country’s indigenous foods are every bit a part of it’s identity as the native tongue. Therefore, I always seek out the markets, specialty produce, game, fish, crustaceans and find out where the locals eat.
So..that is also how I traveled Cuba last year. Due to Cuba’s socialist regime, the country tries to manufacture and grow everything they can in-house. Therefore, as far as food goes, the cuisine remained authentic and the ingredients are all local and almost always seasonal.
Now I tried many local delicacies, dined in restaurants on the street and at the beach, but the best Cuban food I had, was made by Senor Jorge Pinero at his house in Cienfuegos.
In Cuba, tourists can stay with local families in most places. This type of hospitality is called Casa Particular which quite plainly means someone’s particular home. When I reached Cienfuegos i had already read that Jorge was an avid cook but did not know what to expect.
Jorge Pinero turned out to be a fascinating man, a fantastic cook, a diver, a fisherman, a bartender, a grandfather and a great new friend. The first thing that caught my eye in the house was the outdoor oven and smoker which Jorge built by hand, of course! It is a wood burning oven about 4 feet high so you can also hang-roast or smoke. It has a thermometer installed in the door, which is made of two heavy copper plates made from fused shells and cartridges from a an old factory nearby. I later discovered that there were bits of ingenuity put to use all over the house, but the ones for kitchen use…unbelievable. Senor Pinero purifies his own drinking water through a limestone basin drip system, dries and smokes his own meats and even created a special tool designed to score lobster tails evenly.
I quickly developed a daily routine in Cienfuegos that consisted of a hearty home-cooked breakfast followed by a day of diving , sun and sightseeing. But then, every evening I would come home to a completely different feast. Amazing food made just for me and generous enough for 5 of me. All this, and I mean all this for less than $9 each night! Some of the meals were a whole smoked chicken and the snapper (that monster was for me alone too!). Later Jorge would fix us drinks and we’d sit and talk into the night.
Yep! just for me!
I can’t wait to go again!