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Is The Best Cuban Food Still In Cuba?

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Sep 25, 2017

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player, Stitcher, or Apple Podcasts. (And please subscribe!)

Cuba has long been plagued by food shortages. Basic staples there can be hard to come by. That means a lot of Cubans can’t make the same dishes their grandparents grew up with.

So what defines Cuban food today? Is it what they serve in the hotels in Havana? In Cuban-American homes and restaurants in Miami? Or in the kitchens of average folks in Cuba?

This week on The Sporkful, we travel to Miami to try to find out.

Miami Herald food editor Carlos Frias (below) was born and raised in the Miami area, but he has reported from Cuba as a journalist.

"The food [in Cuba] wasn’t any Cuban food that I’d grown up eating," Carlos says. "[People in Cuba] lost access to certain important ingredients."

"What part does cuisine play in your culture?" he adds. "If your culture doesn’t contain the Cuban food that you know, are you still Cuban?"

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Meanwhile, now that travel restrictions to Cuba have been loosened, a bunch of companies have started offering Cuban food tours. But these tours highlight a generational divide.

The Cubans who fled Castro’s regime decades ago swore they’d never go back as long the current government is in power. But their children, who are now adults, are intensely curious about the country from which their parents came.

"My father keeps telling me, ‘Why do you wanna keep going back [to Cuba]?’" Chef Douglas Rodriguez (shown below on a farm in Cuba) tells Dan in this week's episode.

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Chef Rodriguez, a Cuban-American chef based in Miami, has been leading culinary tours to Cuba since 2013.

"[Cuba is] a magical place and every time I go [there], I learn something," he adds. "Unfortunately I’ve lost relationships because a lot of people frown on travel to Cuba."

There are no easy answers in this debate -- but listen in to the full episode to hear our discussion with Carlos, Chef Rodriguez, and Cuban-American elders at a beloved Cuban restaurant in Miami.

This week's episode of The Sporkful podcast is up! Listen through the player, Stitcher, or Apple Podcasts. (And please subscribe!)

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Today's sponsors:

Interstitial music in this episode from Black Label Music:

- "Pong" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt

- "Can You Dig It" by Cullen Fitzpatrick

- "Third Try" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt

- "On The Floor" by Cullen Fitzpatrick

- "Steady" by Cullen Fitzpatrick

- "Legend" by Erick Anderson

Photo: FlickrCC/George Estreich; courtesy of Douglas Rodriguez; and Dan Pashman

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