BY PASCALE ANGLADE
The Legacy Project at County College of Morris will be hosting chef and media personality Ronaldo Linares, author of Sabores de Cuba in a cookbook signing event March 21.
During his visit, Linares will discuss his specialty of creating healthy dishes that are traditionally Cuban.
Just at the mention of this island sitting 90 miles south of Key West, Florida, a number of things come to mind, such as sensual salsa, fine cigars, sweet rum and savory foods. At least one student knows that food can be a way to discover or connect with others.
“Having a cook come in is great,” said Jasmine Napoleon, a criminal justice student at CCM. “I think that everyone needs to be exposed to the different cultures there are in the world, I wish I could go to Cuba and partake on their traditional cuisine.”
According to foodbycountry.com, Cuban cuisine has diverse roots, and is influenced mostly from Spain and Africa, but the French, Arabic, Chinese, and Portuguese cultures were also influential. With this rich cultural heritage, Cuba is known for dishes such as yellow saffron rice with chicken (Arroz con Pollo), black beans and rice (Moros y Cristianos), fried sweet plantains (platanos maduros), Cuban hamburger (la Frita), Cuban sandwich (Cubano), soups made with plantains, and chickpeas and beans, which are ubiquitous in New York and New Jersey Cuban bistros.
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America explains that when many Cubans fled to the United States during and after the 1959 revolution, they brought their hard-earned culture and its cuisine with them. An adaptable recipe, common and inexpensive ingredients, and basic cooking techniques made Cuban food the second most influential Latin cuisine in this country after Mexican cooking. Cuban restaurants have served as a model for Latin American restaurants all over the country particularly in Florida and the northeast.
“I’ve had Cuban food from restaurants here but not from Cuba, the taste is amazing,” Napoleon said.
What make most Cuban cooking flavorful are the base ingredients which consist of spices; root vegetables; cilantro, onions, garlic, pepper and olive oil blended together (recaito); onions, green peppers, garlic, oregano, ground pepper fried in olive oil (sofrito); and citrus juices, according to the University of Miami Libraries.
For Stiven Restrego, a CCM business student and Latin food enthusiast, minimally processed foods with short ingredients list fit into his clean-eating diet.
“I like typical rice and beans, sausages, fried fish croquettas, salsa, and piccadillo,” Restrego said. Picadillo is a stew of ground beef, onions, garlic, oregano and tomatoes, with raisins added for sweetness and olives for salt. “Latin food is so clean.”
However, to Jessie Brown, a psychology major at CCM, Latin food is synonymous with grease.
“All I’ve had before was fried sweet plantains, empanadas and pasteles,” she said.
What’s more, to many students like Kelly Kavanaugh, biology and environmental science student at CCM, Cuban food is completely foreign.
“I’m mixed Irish and German, I have not had a chance to taste Cuban food,” she said. Kavanaugh said she is attracted to try something new.
Linares’s cooking is influenced by Cuban, French and Colombian cuisines and with this powerful mix, anticipation is rising.
“I can’t wait to try it,” said Alyssa Powell, a liberal arts student at CCM. “I’m very excited to see what kinds of food he will bring.”