Havana Salsa by Viviana Carballo

From: reviews (@nirge...)

Havana Salsa

The last 10 years have brought a wealth of "growing up Cuban" memoirs,
most notably "Waiting for Snow in Havana," "Tropicana Nights," and
"Finding Mañana." Funny thing is, we just can't get enough of them. We
guess it's because they bring memories of a Cuba we can only dream
about -- the glory days of Cuba that are slowly fading in our

Viviana Carballo has added to the mix with a delightful account of her
own rather eccentric family's experiences both BC (Before Castro) and
after. Reading this book is a little like pulling up a stool and
listening to the stories of a favorite (albeit a little saucy) great
aunt. As in many homes of the time and especially in the better homes
of Havana, Carballo's mother cooked only occasionally, mostly for
holidays and special occasions. The real culinary magic was performed
by Dulce, the Carballo's cook and a devout follower of Santeria -- a
religion that combines African mystic belief with Catholic faith. It
was here that Viviana Carballo first learned the basics of Cuban
cuisine, in a kitchen that was quite literally watched over by the

For those who survived the "revolution," no Cuban life story is
without pain and suffering and Carballo's experiences are especially
heart rendering. Her father is branded a counter-revolutionary and
locked up in one of Castro's gulags where he dies after two years of
inhumane treatment. When she decides to flee the island, she must
leave her husband behind, a horrible Sophie's choice that no woman
should ever be faced with.

Carballo seasons her narrative with some 70 recipes for Cuban dishes,
some very traditional, although there is a strong emphasis on dishes
from the mother country, Spain. Some are pure Gallego: you'd be hard
pressed to find Blue Cheese Circles, St. James Almond Tart, or
Christmas Turkey with Catalan stuffing on a traditional Cuban menu,
but this broadening of the Cuban food repertoire only adds to this
book's appeal. There is even a recipe for filloas, the Spanish version
of French crepes, thick and almost rustic in appearance these hearty
pancakes make a great wrapper for a wide range of fillings both sweet
and savory.

Cuban dessert fanatics (and we hear from them weekly at our website)
will enjoy several rarely published dessert recipes including one for
Brazo Gitano (quite literally Gypsy's arm) a classic jelly roll cake
traditionally filled with sweet guava filling and topped with candied
fruits and shredded coconut, but here stuffed with a citrus cream and
garnished simply with powdered sugar and orange slices. Meringue
loving foodies will be inspired by the capitolios, a chocolate
cake-like confection topped with fluffy meringue -- although the
author does admit to taking the easy way out and using a commercial
brownie mix for the cake.

We have only begun to sample the recipes, but one clearly stands out:
a new twist on enchilado de camarones, a very typical dish of sautéed
shrimp in a creole sauce, here made less typical with the addition of
coconut milk and a bit of a spicy kick.

Havana Salsa is an excellent read and the recipes are an added bonus!


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