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Sunday, 13 May 2012

Cuba Libre? Cuban Sandwich?

In April 2012 (just last month) I had the amazing and surreal opportunity to go to Cuba with my mom and 4 other women. We travelled on a Humanitarian Mission license through the U.S. Government. After meeting up in Miami, we flew to Havana to spend 7 days with a guide and driver and an itinerary that included Churches, Synagogues, Cemetaries, Museums, Craft Markets, Revolution Square and an open-air food market. There were also, of course, daily rest stops where we partook of the fabulous Cuban Coffee and the oh-so-exquisite Mojito.


The instigators of this adventure are Abbye Williams who works with me on business development ( and Lynn Carruthers a longtime friend of Abbye’s who is a graphic recorder and lives in the Bay Area. The two of them have been researching travel to Cuba for the past 13 years. Their research was a bonus for the rest of us because the bulk of our itinerary included many of the stops they had read up on – including finding the street that Lynn’s father lived on as a boy in Havana. Another great find that came from their research was one of our many afternoon-cooling-off stops – the Mezzanine Bar at the Hotel Saratoga;

That’s my mom in the middle with the white hat on. Not bad for 80, huh?


I will confess that in the interest of research we tried the Mojitos here, too, and most definitely approved.


While in Cuba I didn’t have one single Cuba Libre, but we did have Cuban Sandwiches almost every day for lunch and they were always a little different. The bottom line is this – Cuban Sandwiches in Havana are made on a roll or baguette with some kind of white cheese, some kind of ham and some kind of grilled pork. They might be grilled (like this one) or they might not. They might have mayonnaise and they might not.


They have no pickles, lettuce, tomato or mustard on them.


I didn’t have a Cuba Libre because besides water, the mojito was my beverage of choice. Each one we tried was a little different from the one before. Did we have favorites? Sure. But they were influenced as much by where and when we were drinking them as what was actually in the glass.There is a bar in Havana called Bodeguita Del Medio. It’s one of the places that Ernest Hemingway spent a fair bit of time so we had to go see it. The Bodeguita Del Medio has actually posted a video online with instructions for making the best Mojito. This one has a lot of sugar in it for my taste. Some of us, Las Seis (The Six), liked the sweeter ones. I liked the ones with less sugar and more lime and mint. Truth is, there wasn’t one I would have refused. Here’s a link to the video;


The Havana Club Rum Museum has an exhibit showing the history and the process of making rum in Cuba and the history of slave labor that went hand in hand with the growth of the industry and the country. They offer a tasting at the end of the tour that enlightened our palates to the delights of the Havana Club 7 year old rum. It was so good that it quickly became the after dinner drink of choice for mom and me. On more than one evening we each had a 7 Year and shared a cigar while we all sat together and talked over the day.

No, I’m not an alcoholic and I really don’t drink that much, but we’re talking about Cuba here –Rum and Cigars were on my short to-do list!

Happy Mother’s Day!