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Cuban Food Profile

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Capitolio Nacional and Gran Teatro, in Havanna, Cuba
Stuart Dee/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
As the first and last Spanish colony in the Caribbean, Cuban food still has strong ties to Spanish influences. During the colonial era Havana was an important trading port and Spanish immigrants passed through the city before moving on to other towns and islands. Many of the immigrants were from southern Spain; hence many Cuban dishes have their roots in Andalucía.

The revolution and breakdown of U.S. relations in 1961 profoundly changed Cuban food. Cuba was cut off from its source of imports and had to find other sources to keep the economy going. When Fidel Castro declared the revolution Marxist-Leninist, their ties strengthened with the Soviet Union. New food products entered the Cuban diet with wheat, pasta, pizza and yogurt becoming indispensable. Chicken and fish took precedence over pork, although pork is still the meat of choice. Beef and lard almost disappeared from the diet.

Events of the 20th century had a substantial impact on Cuban food. Because U.S. policy forbids trade with Cuba, the island has been forced to change its diet. In Cuba, you will not find an American influence on Cuban food. However, in American Cuban immigrant communities such as Miami, American influences are present in Cuban food and recipes.

Cuban food relies a great deal on roots and tubers, such as malanga, potatoes, boniatos, and yucca. Other starchy food includes plantains, bananas, and rice. Some dishes you might recognize are Moros y Cristianos (black beans and rice), lechón asado (slow roasted pork), and pollo en salsa (chicken in sauce). Also, a tortilla in Cuba is a simple egg omelet and is not even similar to a Mexican tortilla. Cubans love pizza, too. Some favorite toppings include ham, chorizo, and onion.

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