Cuba: The Cookbook

Madelaine Vázquez Gálvez and Imogene Tondre. Phaidon, $49.95 (432p) ISBN 978-0-7148-7576-7
This enticing though overpacked collection of Cuban fare favors volume over editing and goes light on guidance and dish background. Cuban chefs and writers Vázquez Gálvez and Tondre list nearly a dozen omelets, for example, but don’t explain the reason for such ingredients as saltine crackers or rum, and their rote recipe for mashed potatoes adds nothing to the common preparation. There are exceptions: the authors cover the history of popular dishes like the Cuban sandwich (which most likely came from the Cuban community of Ybor City in Tampa, Fla.), red beans and rice, and the murky origins of the Cuba libre cocktail of rum and coke (which some say dates back to Cuba’s war for independence in 1898, but could have also been named by an American officer years later), and address the popularity of pizza and pasta among Cuba’s youth. The cross-cultural pollination of such dishes as Cuban paella and Cuban fried rice—a winning mashup that combines pork loin, ham, shrimp, chicken with traditional fried rice—add some zip to the collection. The book’s final chapter highlights a handful of dishes and the restaurants in which they’re served, like a guava and cream cheese pie from a Cuban restaurant in Brooklyn, and a maduros old-fashioned, made of sweet plantains, from Asia de Cuba in London. While this might be the most comprehensive collection of classic and new Cuban cuisine, it will nevertheless leave home cooks wanting better context and more lively descriptions. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/18/2018
Release date: 06/01/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
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