For the past two days, I’ve been reveling in the latest issue of Gourmet magazine the Latino America issue. If it weren’t for Elise of Simply Recipes and her Puerto Rican friend Maria, I might have missed it, but I’m glad that, albeit late, I learned about it and got my hands on a copy. Elise calls this the best issue ever and although I’m not a regular reader of Gourmet I have to say this issue struck a chord with me, like I’m sure it has for many.
The cover calls Latino food America’s fastest growing cuisine, not surprising given the rapid growth of Latinos in the country, but that’s not what touched me. It was more a sense of pride and excitement from seeing something so closely connected to me — there were three Colombian dishes in the issue — introduced with beautiful pictures into the American gastronomical consciousness.
It’s not often I see a whole issue of a U.S. magazine devoted to the cuisine of Latin American countries beyond Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Inevitably, the issue devotes quite a bit of space to these countries’ cuisines (they are, after all, the three largest Hispanic populations in the United States), but it strikes a good balance. You’ll find recipes for Colombian arepas, Ecuadorian llapingachos and guanabana sherbet, among others.
Yet the issue is about more than recipes. There’s a common thread in its stories, one that’s not only true for Latino immigrants. Food defines and unites us, particularly when we’re away from what we know as ours. We’ve heard over and again that the first thing a group of immigrants does when they arrive in a new place is set up a restaurant or find ways to make their food.
Ana Menendez, who contributed a piece on Cuban food in Miami titled Exiles on Main Street touches on this in her article. In her piece, she takes readers from Versailles, which she calls the quintessential Cuban cliche, to Enriqueta’s, to one of my recent favorite lunch stops: Tinta y Cafe
“In the fine tradition of immigrant restaurants throughout the centuries, Miami’s Cuban food scene is sustained by liberal helpings of scheming and nostalgia. Overindulgence is not just inevitable; it’s required.”
I think that holds true for anyone who has lived away from home, in the U.S. or elsewhere, and their cuisine. A lot of us are or have been exiles in some way, voluntarily or not, and food, our food, embraces us, comforts us and keeps us sane. And for reminding us of this, Gourmet scored high.
Cuban restaurants featured in Menendez’s Gourmet article
3555 SW 8th St.
Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop
186 NE 29th St.
Tinta y Cafe
268 SW 8th St.
Cacique Lunch Restaurant
112 W. Flagler St.
Rancho Luna Restaurante
45 NW 22nd Ave.
Cafe at Books & Books
933 Lincoln Road
11740 Kendall Dr.
3791 Bird Rd.