Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: The Cuban Table by Ana Sofia Pelaez

The Cuban Table is a comprehensive, contemporary overview of Cuban food, recipes and culture as recounted by serious home cooks and professional chefs, restaurateurs and food writers. Cuban-American food writer Ana Sofia Pelaez and award-winning photographer Ellen Silverman traveled through Cuba, Miami and New York to document and learn about traditional Cuban cooking from a wide range of authentic sources.
Cuban home cooks are fiercely protective of their secrets. Content with a private kind of renown, they demonstrate an elusive turn of hand that transforms simple recipes into bright and memorable meals that draw family and friends to their tables time and again. More than just a list of ingredients or series of steps, Cuban cooks' tricks and touches hide in plain sight, staying within families or being passed down in well-worn copies of old cookbooks largely unread outside of the Cuban community.
Here you'll find documented recipes for everything from iconic Cuban sandwiches to rich stews with Spanish accents and African ingredients, accompanied by details about historical context and insight into cultural nuances. More than a cookbook, The Cuban Table is a celebration of Cuban cooking, culture and cuisine. With stunning photographs throughout and over 110 deliciously authentic recipes this cookbook invites you into one of the Caribbean’s most interesting and vibrant cuisines.

Much of what I know about Cuba comes from documentaries, so it was nice to get a slightly different perspective about Cuban cuisine and culture.

In The Cuban Table, readers are treated to delicious recipes, anecdotes about Cubans from inside and outside of Cuba, as well as beautiful photographs depicting Cuban life.

My first thought after reading the first few pages was that it reminds me of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations episode about Cuba. Food features prominently, but it's about the people and the culture too. My favorite parts of the book, actually, were the photos and the anecdotes. I love reading about other people's stories, and though the entries are short, it's nice to see how their stories relate to the food they or their family prepares at home and for their restaurants (if they have one).

The photos were quite beautiful, and looked vintage minus the filter. Some of them actually reminded me of MangoRed's style, without the coloring and edits.

Prior to reading this book, I only had vague ideas about Cuban cuisine. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were three dishes here that we have in the Philippines as well. Namely, escabeche, lechon asado, and flan de leche (known locally as leche flan).The rest, though, was relatively foreign to me.

There were plenty of sandwich recipes and recipes that make use of beans. I'm not too fond of either, so most of my attention went to the proteins and the desserts. For a beginner like me, a lot of recipes seem intimidating. Mostly, it was because of the ingredients, which were either many or not all are available here, or because it requires quart pots or equipment like food processors that I don't have at home. What's great, though, is that the recipes that look complicated or require a lot of time look like they'd be worth the effort.

My favorite part, of course, is the dessert section. They look relatively easy to do. If you're a fan of making ice cream, you'll be happy to know that there are plenty of ice cream recipes here. You'll need an ice cream maker, though. Cocktail lovers will also be pleased to know that there's a small cocktail section containing recipes for cuba libre, el presidente, mojito, daiquiri, and crema de vie.

Additionaly, there's a section containing foundation recipes (chicken stock, achiote oil, coconut milk, etc.), and a cuban pantry and glossary.

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the e-ARC.


  1. The photos and anecdotes are fascinating.
  2. The recipes look delicious and worth the effort.
  3. You'll learn about the evolution of some Cuban food.


  1. Some of the recipes may be intimidating for beginners. 


  1. You're curious about Cuban cuisine.
  2. You're interested in learning more about Cuban culture.
  3. You like traveling and eating.



Note: This post contains Amazon and Book Depository affiliate links.

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