Every few years, there’s a brouhaha about the world-famous Cuban sandwich.
Brouhaha over a sandwich?
Well, the Cuban is no ordinary sandwich: slices of ham, mojo-roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, yellow mustard, all on Cuban bread, all layered precisely, cut diagonally and pressed on a buttered grill.
And more than a lunch-counter staple in Miami, it is a badge of honor, a touchstone for Cuban exiles everywhere. After all, it, too, escaped Fidel Castro’s regime to find a new life in exile.
But where did that life begin?
For years, the Cuban sandwich has been at the center of a long-running rivalry between Miami and Tampa. Who had it first, and who makes it the best? New York, New Orleans and New Jersey are also early Cuban-sandwich enclaves..
And should salami be added? (Tampa adds it, a nod to the city’s large Italian population is the theory. In Miami, only the most adventurous chefs fiddle with the perfection of the classic.)
Until now, there has been much debate, but little resolution. A new book aims to bring clarity to the true history of the Cuban sandwich, and finds a way to give every city its due. In “The Cuban Sandwich: A History in Layers,” authors Andrew Huse, Bárbara Cruz, and Jeff Houck make it clear the story of the Cuban sandwich is indeed multi-layered.
Through deep research, the authors — they’re from Tampa, mind you — have come up with some conclusions:
The book says the first known Cuban sandwich was probably served in Tampa, where it was a staple for Cuban workers in Cigar City.in the 19th century.
But Miami gets the credit for popularizing the sandwich — and for making it properly.
In an article, Miami Herald food critic Carlos Frias gave the Cuban sandwich book a thumbs up.
“With the greatest concentration of Cuban exiles, who fiercely fought to protect their imported culture from the island, Miami Cubans helped standardize for the world what should and shouldn’t go in a Cuban sandwich,” Frias wrote.
One of the author’s agrees with Frias.
“Miami is the capital of the Cuban sandwich, let’s face it,” Huse told the Miami Herald..
It sure is. But we already knew that, right?