"Bourdain Day" Part 3: A Brief History of the Cuban Sandwich by Kevin Lynch
For this month’s Bourdain Day culinary exploration we dined at Havana Restaurant in West Palm Beach, Fla., where they’ve been serving the classic “Cubano” for over 25 years. Of course, the experience wouldn’t be complete without a little food history.
The origin of the Cuban sandwich is hotly contested. Historians trace the sandwich all the way back to the Taíno tribe that inhabited Cuba prior to European settlement. However, pigs weren’t introduced to the region until 1492. With pork being one of the modern-day staples of this delectable deli classic, it’s hard to imagine this to be accurate.
The more commonly accepted origin of the sandwich is that it was a lunch staple among the Cuban cigar factory workers in Ybor City and Key West, who flocked to Florida in the early 1800s. Either way, the recipe remains modest: Roasted pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles and yellow mustard served on pressed Cuban bread, which is basically French bread with lard added to the dough. The sandwich is customarily sliced diagonally.
In Cuba, I’m told, it’s just called a sandwich, but stateside we call it a Cuban sandwich to honor the culture that made it a modern South Florida staple. Viva la Cuba!
Photo (main): Havana Restaurant