Planet Food: Cuba

World traveller and celebrity chef Bobby Chinn touches down in Havana on the Caribbean Island of Cuba.

With its cuisine and culture having been shaped by successive influences of indigenous Indians, Spanish conquistadors, Arabic moors, French settlers, African slaves and Americans of every shape and size, ranging from world renowned authors to vicious gangsters, no wonder this place has a bit of an identity crisis!

First our hero investigates the Spanish fort of Castillo de la Real Fuerza. Built in 1555 it is the oldest castle in the Americas and it is here Bobby learns of the fabulous wealth that flowed through and formed this beautiful city when the Spanish treasure galleons used Havana’s sheltered harbour as a staging post on the way home from their systematic plundering of their new found colonies in South America. Today the fort houses a maritime museum containing treasure recovered from some of the 2000 wrecks around Cuba’s treacherous coastline.

After strolling through Havana’s Spanish plazas, Bobby ends up at the Don Eduardo Alegra restaurant where he is shown how to cook the very Spanish Moors Y Cristianos, or Moors and Christians, which consists of black beans and white rice.

Next stop is a coffee shop where the erstwhile visitor can watch as the beans are roasted and ground. It is here Bobby starts to discover the history of the coffee and sugar plantations that became the backbone of the Cuban economy. He learns of the terrible price that was paid by the two million slaves who were brought here to work and die under dreadful conditions, right up until slavery’s abolition in 1886. Cuba was one of the last places in the world to abolish slavery.

One of the by-products of sugar is the manufacture of rum and there is nowhere better to see and sample Cuba’s expertise in this area than the Havana Club Rum Museum.

After this visit Bobby is inspired to hit the beach and cook up a storm with an African Creole style fruit salad with flambéed Rum and guava sauce.

Next Bobby pays a flying visit to a cigar factory where he is taught how to produce one of Cuba’s favourite exports, the famous Havana Cigar.

Bobby investigates the American influence and love affair with Cuba before the Revolution and ends his trip cooking one of the favourite seafood dishes of Ernest Hemingway, the famous author who made Cuba his home for many years.

Pilot Guides, May 20, 2015

This entry was posted in Exchanges. Bookmark the permalink.