cover image Havana Salsa: Stories and Recipes

Havana Salsa: Stories and Recipes

Viviana Carballo, Author . Atria $24 (266p) ISBN 978-0-7432-8516-2

Food columnist Carballo's devotion to both her Cuban homeland and the magnificent food of her childhood are evident in this memoir with recipes. She grew up in prerevolutionary Cuba in the 1950s with divorced parents—her father, a philandering fortune-teller, instilled in his daughter a passion for food. "My dad loved every kind of food and always encouraged me to sample right along with him," Carballo writes. "He took pleasure in every bite. It was a joyful experience, and since then I have always associated food with being cosseted, with being happy." This anecdote is followed by a recipe for Roast Duck El Pacifico. Each vignette is a mere tidbit, a taste of Carballo's life, covering her family's eccentric friends, her years in an American convent boarding school, her early romances, right up to her escape to the U.S. after Castro came to power. The stories are not as consistently fulfilling as the recipes; the ones she doesn't tell are quite interesting: "Little did I know that my mother was on a mission to the Sierra Maestra carrying medicines and small arms" is virtually all she writes about her mother's astonishing work. The memoir is a treat, although more substantial fare would have been nice. (Aug.)