*The following post was written by Kikita, la hija de Marta.*
Here in "The Bubble" (as Mami likes to call it), there is not much Cuban food to be had. That's why Mami posts recipes over on Babalú Blog. That's why we cook so much. If we want to eat out and we want to eat Cuban food, we have to take a road trip.
So, imagine my excitement when I hear that the Souplantation (which is known as Sweet Tomatoes in some states) is having a special where they will be serving Cuban Cuisine for two weeks in August!
Then I saw the menu, and I got worried. There was a whole lot of "chorizo" and nowhere did I see the word "platano."
Did I let that stop me?
Of course not!
Even though their list had me thinking that whoever planned there menu must have had Cuba confused with some other country (Spain, maybe) and that the person had never heard of the internet or how to do any kind of research (because if they had would they really have thought "Chorizo" said "Cuban Food" – nevermind that we put chorizo in boliche, that's not imporant right now), I decided I would go and give these plantation people a chance.
First up, the Havana Banana Salad.
No, the "Banana" was not platano. It was just your basic, everyday banana. And since it was a chip, it was really just acting as a tasteless crouton. Was the salad delicious? Of course. A delicious citrus blend of happiness. I daresay it tasted like summer. But it didn't taste Cuban, not even with the black beans added for effect.
Not ready to give up hope, I continued on and found this:
I'm sure there are ways to Cuban-ify potato salad, but this wasn't it. Switching out bacon for chorizo (which, again, says "Spain" before it says "Cuba", right?) and adding lime with that dash of cumin (which ARE two Cuban food staples, we just don't staple like that) only makes your potato salad taste limey. Yummy, if you're the type who likes potato salad, but not Cuban.
I held my breath as I continued on. Telling myself that there really was no way to mess up "Cuban beans and Rice." It's too traditional. It's impossible to get wrong. Impossible? Not for Souplantation!
Y que es turmeric? Isn't that an INDIAN spice?!
AGAIN WITH THE LIME?
And did they add the honey to make the beans sweet? They were the wrong color.
We call them Black Beans and White Rice for a reason. This reason must have been lost on the Sweet Tomatoes. If they were going for a Moros y Cristianos style, the were still the wrong color whether you make it with black beans or the red ones. Plus, all that lime was really pushing that "summer" taste. And if you like cold beans and rice, it was really quite delicious. An untrained palatte might even go so far as to call it "Tropical" because "Lime" really does scream "Tropical," but "Tropical" was not the scream I had bubbling up in my throat.
In a state of shock, I moved to the soups.
They're the Souplantation, right? So maybe they'll do better with that… or not.
Ay! Again with the chorizo! And sweet potatoes? Well… I guess that's the closest thing to boñato. (Technically speaking, sweet potatoes ARE in the boñato family, they just aren't the ones most commonly used in Cubano boñato dishes.) I was not fooled for one second. I was eating chili, without the cheese and with black beans and sweet potatoes thrown in to confuse me. A delicious chili, but I didn't come for a chili cook-off. I came for Cuban food.
I was grateful when I saw the sign that told me, this time, no one was trying to pretend this food was really Cuban. Just because you put the word "Cubano" in front of Focaccia, does not make your pizza Cuban.
I knew it was trying to be "just like the classic sandwich," but putting ham and more chorizo on top of a pickle pizza just makes it a pickle pizza with ham and chorizo. (Yes, I know Focaccia is not exactly pizza, but it's flat and there was cheese on it and it tasted like a pizza with ham and chorizo and pickle – a good pizza, but not even a Cuban pizza: which DOES exist, by the way.)
Once I got past my utter disappointment at not finding the promised Cuban food anywhere, I really did enjoy the taste sensations dancing on my taste buds.
All in all, the food was good, it just wasn't Cuban.
Thanks Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes, if you ever think about adding a Cuban Cafecito to your menu, please call me, Kikita, first and let me teach you how to Taka Taka.
It will be more better. Te lo prometo.