Combining pork with seafood has been going on for centuries in Europe and Asian countries. For example, take the Spanish with their paella — a mix of chorizo, prawns and mussels and the Chinese with pork and prawn dumplings.
During January, Brion & I spent a few weeks at the Los Cactus resort in Varadero, Cuba. Varadero is a 1.2 km wide peninsula situated along Cuba’s northern coast with 20 km of white sandy beaches. This vicinity has a variety of natural attractions as well as cultural and historical. Varadero is primarily visited by European and Canadian tourists.
Cuba is one big classic car museum. These 1950’s cars are everywhere, in every color and in many shapes, makes and models. While in the USA & Canada these cars would be collector’s items, in Cuba, they are used as everyday vehicles as well as taxis, often providing a good income for their owners.
Being so close to Havana we took the opportunity to take a guided day tour of the capital city. One thing we found really amazing in Cuba, was their bus system. The buses were relatively clean and comfortable with professional drivers. Our day trip to Havana was about 10 1/2 hours long, round trip, with an English speaking guide. Brion & I found the day very interesting. It consisted of a walking tour of Old Havana, lunch and then a panoramic tour of modern Havana to Revolution Square, the famous ‘Malecon’ seawall promenade, Christopher Columbus Necropolis and the Vedado Residential area.
This city is a mixture of opulence and decay, old world and new, socialism and capitalism, Europe, Africa and America. In Old Havana, effort has gone into rebuilding for tourist purposes, and a number of the streets and squares have been rehabilitated. The fact is that Old Havana is a large city, and the restoration efforts concentrate in all on less than 10% of its area. It seems whatever your interests, Havana offers an interesting mix of rhythms, rum, revolution and history.
During the tour, our guide took us to the top floor of the Gomez Vila. You climb up to the tower, about eight flights of stairs where there is a rooftop veranda. Here you can get a 360 degree view of the city. Located here as well, is the ‘Camera Obscura’. This optical device of lenses and mirrors projects an aerial image of the city into a giant concave screen taking you on a bird’s eye tour of Havana in real time. The projections are so clear that you can even pick out individuals walking on the cobble stone streets. It is one of the 74 cameras like it worldwide. Amazing!
In Revolution Square, we viewed some iconic images on the buildings of two Revolutionary heroes, Che Guevara and Camillo Cienfeugos. It was very interesting listening to our tour guide in regards to the Cuban Revolution, giving us this history from a Cuban perspective. There is a complex system of three fortifications that protected Havana, it’s port and it’s dockyard. From the seawall we got some photos of Morro Castle at the entrance with its emblematic light house that was built four centuries ago.
Cuban cuisine is a blend of several cultures — Taino, Spanish, African and Caribbean, with each adding their own methods of cooking and choice of spices. The most common spices used are garlic, cumin, oregano and bay or laurel leaves. Black beans and rice are Cuban staples.
The popularity of pork in Cuban cuisine has long historical roots. Spanish explorers brought pigs to the Caribbean islands back in 1492. From what I understand, one of the secrets of moist and flavorful Cuban pork is that the pigs feed on palmiche, the fruit of a palm tree. The ‘Royal Palm’ is the national tree of Cuba. It is native to the island and is such a characteristic symbol of its scenery. Notice the big clusters of palm nuts at the top of the Royal palm tree in one of the blog pics.
I wanted to share a recipe today that seemed very in keeping with our Cuban travels. These pork loin chops are stuffed with crabmeat filling and drizzled with a raspberry pepper jelly sauce.
Brion has added a few of his great pics from Cuba for you to enjoy.