Jorge La Mejor ! Cuba 2008

http://ww1.huntingdon.edu/jlewis/Syl/IRcomp/Maps/CubaReliefHi.jpg

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.

buthcher shop in the Cienfuegos market

Habana Vieja market

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.

Jorge Le Mejor !

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.

Jorge's Oven/Smoker

Heavy copper door! beautiful!Lobster scorer! paralel razors.So cool!

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.

Dinner 4.....1 ?

Yep! just for me!Mmmm dinner!

Pescado magnifico! Senor Jorge!

Guava leaf smoked chicken! oh yes!

I can’t wait to go again!

Champion! a king among rotweillers.beautiful and kindDelicious Rum in Habana.cheers!

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