Food Traveler Magazine Winter 2016 - Page 79

BUEN PROVECHO! (Eat with Pleasure) At Punta Gorda, a restaurant in Santiago de Cuba, I enjoyed an al fresco lunch with my fellow cruise passengers. Maraca-shaking musicians and dancers swishing cloud-like white skirts had us bopping in our seats while we took in the spectacular view of the bay and sipped refreshing, minty mojitos. The mood was fun and festive, and I was pleased our family-style meal included ropa vieja, a classic shredded beef dish seasoned with onions and peppers. After a long morning of sightseeing that included a tour of Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca del Morro, a 17th-century fort that once protected the city from pillaging pirates, we were famished. We dug into platters of the tender meat like starving orphans. The consensus at my table was that this rustic comfort food was “delicioso,” and some enjoyed it so much, they were determined to try and recreate it in their home kitchens. This dish can be heavy on tomato sauce, but this less saucy version allowed the rich flavor of the meat to shine through. Sides of mashed cassava and rice and beans rounded out the meal. Riding back to the ship with a full stomach, I felt a twinge of guilt. Ropa vieja may be the national dish, but few Cubans can afford to make it. Those who can, probably need a black market connection to get the meat. An American grocery store stocked with a wide variety of meat, seafood, dairy products and shiny, spotless produce would make the average Cuban swoon. Like most Americans, I take for granted abundant, high-quality food and get annoyed when my local grocery store is out of something. “What! Now I have to drive across town!” Cubans are largely dependent on government-operated ration stores that stock little more than rice and beans. As my bus pulled into the lot, the Adonia came into view, and I saw it for the first time the way I think the Cuban people do – as a shining beacon of American optimism, a sign of change, a symbol of hope. BOOK A TRIP: Fathom is Carnival’s social impact brand. It offers every-other-week sailings to Cuba and the Dominican Republic. (855) 932-8466, FoodTraveler l Winter 2016 77