THE HABANA CAF COOKBOOK

Josefa Gonzalez-Hastings, Author, Andria Kuzeff, Editor . Univ. Press of Florida $19.95 (116p) ISBN 978-0-8130-2737-1

Gonzalez-Hastings, chef and owner of the popular Habana Café in Gulfport, Fla., aims to blend a guide to Cuban cuisine, her own émigré family lore and today's fusion Nuevo Latino cooking. Alas, her slim volume fails to deliver: Gonzalez-Hastings's personal anecdotes combine nostalgia with anger at Castro without fully evoking the world that was lost, and she presents her recipe instructions in a perfunctory style, with too many fundamentals relegated to a superficial glossary at book's end. Novice cooks will be baffled by the absence of technical explanations, while Latino cooking fans will wonder why Gonzalez-Hastings includes dishes like Salmon on Mini-Bagel Crisps but omits Cuban staples such as annatto oil, calabaza and boniato. And though immigrant cuisines are always transformed on American soil, this chef advocates the use of bottled mojo sauce, Badia spice mix and bouillon cubes without useful comparisons to homemade alternatives. Gonzalez-Hastings is on more sure footing when she ties stories about the restaurant to specific dishes (e.g., the Cuban Sandwich or Moros y Cristianos [black beans and rice]), and there are buried treasures, such as her mother's Ham Croquettes. But when it comes to Nuevo Cubano cuisine, readers would be better off with Joyce La Fray's ¡Cuba Cocina! or Mary Urrutia Randelman's classic Memories of a Cuban Kitchen . Gonzalez-Hastings's illustrated paperback may be welcomed as a souvenir of dining in the café, but as a cookbook, her mojo simply lacks mojo. 20 color, 10 b&w photos. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/10/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 128 pages - 978-0-8130-5927-3
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