« Shrimp and artichoke pasta salad with lemon poppy seed dressing | Main | Spicy salsa tomato soup »

Cookbooks in the Pantry: A Taste of Old Cuba


If you've been reading The Perfect Pantry for the past couple of years, you know about The Downsizing. When my husband Ted and I moved from the log house in Rhode Island to a small apartment in Boston's South End, we consolidated everything, from furniture, to cookware, to art and shoes and camping gear. And, yes, cookbooks. What began as a collection of close to 1,000 found new homes in local libraries (including our Little Free Library), nonprofit agencies, and friends' kitchens. In the end, I kept fewer than 100 cookbooks.

What made the cut, and why? Some are classics, some encyclopedic, some oldish (and others newish), some locally-produced paperbacks acquired on my travels, and some... well, I just couldn't let them go. Stick around on Saturdays to find out what's still on my cookbook shelf.

A Taste of Old Cuba, by Maria Josefa Lluria de O'Higgins (1994)

Why I've kept it: One of the highlights of our trip to Cuba in 1996 was a lobster dinner in a paladar, a restaurant run in the private home of a Cuban family in Varadero, a beach community on a narrow spit of land east of Havana. Rosa welcomed me into the tiny kitchen as she prepared lobster in a tangy (but not spicy) tomato sauce. I didn't take notes about the recipe, but the taste memory stayed with me. 

Back home, my search for an authentic version of that langostas enchiladas (lobster in savory sauce) led me to A Taste of Old Cuba, and as often happens with really great cookbooks, I began to cook my way through more of the traditional Cuban cuisine. Throughout the book, the author, who grew up playing on the beach in Varadero, recounts stories of her charming childhood in the Cuba of the 1920s-30s. You can't help but be transported.

A shrimp version of the lobster recipe has become one of my favorite -- and easiest -- dishes to make for entertaining, and I've shared it here on the blog: Cuban shrimp in savory sauce.

There are also a few variations of Moros y cristianos (black beans and rice).

Bookmarked, to try next: arroz con camarones en olla de presíon (rice and shrimp in the pressure cooker)

Do you have A Taste of Old Cuba, or other Cuban cookbooks, on your bookshelf?

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I don’t have a Cuban cookbook yet but it will most likely be included sometime in future because we have a couple Cuban restaurants in Honolulu. The local newspaper food section (Honolulu Star Advertiser) has started printing a new series of hardcover cookbooks through Mutual Publishing called “Hawaii Cooks” featuring traditional recipes of each ethnic culture that has adopted Hawaii as home and how they have adapted their ethnic cuisine style to only what ingredients that are grown, captured or produced in Hawaii (Hawaii Regional Cuisine). Over the last two years we now have locally published cookbooks individually titled; “A (Filipino; Korean; Portuguese; Chinese; Okinawan) Kitchen; Traditional Recipes with an Island Twist” with hundreds of recipes and photographs. Hawaii is reportedly by the U.S. Census Bureau the nation’s most ethnically diverse state in the nation and being a prime international global destination for vacations and business conferences; you can eat your way around the world here with all the different ethnic restaurants.

Interesting! And who knew there was another reason to visit Hawaii. Are you going to start a Sat. feature wherein we can share interesting old cookbooks? I have one in mind already.

Such a fun idea for a Saturday feature! My only worry is that I might want to buy every cookbook you mention!

I am SO going to enjoy this ride. I've been downsizing my collection as well, not an easy task. I will take great pleasure in see some of your 100 survivors.

I wonder if the Time-Life Foods of the World has covered Cuba as well as the mainland...
Now, I did recently get a copy of Latin Ladles, a book that you brought up on SoupChick a few years ago -- that's mind opening. It led me to try using plantains for the first time.
Always good to keep learning! I see my cookbooks (600+, trying to reduce) as a rewarding way to do some armchair traveling.

The comments to this entry are closed.