Good recipes are a crucial ingredient for a cookbook and everything else – photography, background information, stories, tips – is just icing on the cake. But that icing is what takes a cookbook from being good, to being great, and Eating Cuban: 120 Recipes from the Streets of Havana to American Shores fits neatly into that category.
Reading the book is like traveling to Cuba. It is something to be experienced, not just flipped through. It is full of (outstanding) photographs of street scenes, restaurants, ingredients and real people, in addition to some photos of the recipes themselves. Each recipe is from an individual person or an individual (and sometimes famous) restaurant and is accompanied by a little story about how the recipe came to be or why it is so popular. The few recipes that lack this personal source are accompanied by blurbs describing why the dish is so typically Cuban, and approximately when and where the recipe originated.
The book is divided up into five sections: Las Raices (the roots), Clasicos Criollas (creole classics), Comidas Ambulantes (street food), Cicino Nueva Onda (new wave cooking) and Bebidas (drinks). Each one includes a range of dishes, from sides to desserts, designed to give the reader a real flavor of that particular style of Cuban cooking. The recipes are well written and easy to follow. There is also something about the book that is very accessible, since even though I often shy away from recipes with complex ingredient lists when I first work with a cookbook, I found that I was even more motivated to try those dishes in this case – and well-rewarded with delicious food when I did.