As a Miami-based photojournalist, I’ve worked at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo over the years and noticed that there’s not much that’s actually Cuban about the place.
Then my colleague asked me to try the Cuban sandwich at the base pub, O’Kelly’s. It was the only supposedly Cuban food on the menu. And it was just wrong.
I came from Cuba at age 11 and grew up in Union City, New Jersey, eating way too many Cuban sandwiches at the cafeterias around the neighborhood. I’ve also worked in Miami, at the Miami Herald, for 27 years, which is to say I have a pretty good idea of what a Cuban sandwich should be. And what it shouldn’t be.
A Cuban sandwich for me is key because I can get my pork fix in a quick easy-to-carry package. Since I'm always on the run, this is very important. Nothing better than a Cuban sandwich and a beer after a hard day's work.
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But you don’t want any surprises. You’re supposed to know exactly what you’re getting when you order one: ham, swiss cheese, mojo-marinated roast pork, mustard, pickles on pressed Cuban bread. That’s it. (Editor’s note: Tampa folks will insist on salami. We’ll agree to disagree. That is to say, Tampa is wrong. — Herald food editor Carlos Frías)
No surprises, please! Eating a poorly made Cuban sandwich is like eating an overcooked steak or drinking warm beer. It's like, “oye, brode!”
This poor Gitmo Cuban got it all wrong. Let me count the ways:
The bread: Wrong
It looks like a panini. It shouldn’t. What’s with those grill marks? And it didn’t taste like Cuban bread.
It’s not a cubano without yellow mustard — despite the little mustard-sauce looking thing they put in a side dish.
On a Cuban? I don’t know about that.
What’s with these pickles?
Too many. Too thick.
This thing is as Cuban as I am Russian.
Miami Herald photojournalist José A. Iglesias was born in Havana, fled the island as a child following Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution and calls Miami home.