Esquire names Miami the ‘true home’ of the Cuban sandwich, Tampa has a hissy fit

Good grief: From the same ridiculous folks who put salami in a Cuban sandwich, a lecture on the Cuban staple’s origins. As far as I am concerned, the moment you violated a Cuban sandwich with a foreign meat product, you lost all authority to speak on the subject.

Michael Kruse in the Tampa Bay Times:

Esquire: The ‘true home’ of the Cuban sandwich is Miami

See the map?

I couldn’t help but red-pen underline these words in the spread labeled “The United States of Sandwiches” in the September Esquire: Transported originally from Cuba to Tampa to feed cigar-factory workers, the Cubano found its true home in Miami, where the salty, sweet sandwich is an essential part of the late-night landscape.

The good, smart people who put together the top-tier men’s mag do know they’re wading straight into something of a perma-squabble, right?

In Miami, Arian Campo-Flores wrote earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal, debates over the sandwich can turn fiery — especially when it comes to the city’s long-running rivalry with Tampa, which claims its version is the original. Cuban-cigar factory workers were eating it there at least as early as the 1920s, decades before the sandwich surfaced in Miami, said Andy Huse, a University of South Florida librarian who wrote a book on the subject. The main difference between the two: Tampa’s has crustier bread and includes slices of salami.

NPR has called it the Cuban Sandwich Crisis.

Last time it flared up was a couple years back.

The city council in Tampa declared the “Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich” the municipality’s signature sandwich. A resolution was pretty specific: three dill pickles, roasted marinated pork, real Cuban bread … Genoa salami.

Miami scoffed.

“Salami is for pizza,” the mayor said.

The Times’ Sue Carlton’s retort: Research indicates Tampa was making what we currently call the Cuban sandwich back in the cigarmaker days — before Miami was even Miami.

And that’s true, according to Huse, a legitimate scholar of the sandwich. The Cuban sandwich, as Huse defines it, Jeff Klinkenberg wrote back in ’06, based on his extensive research and interviews with sandwich-eating old-timers, was developed about a century ago, not in Havana, not in Key West, not in Miami, but in Ybor City.

“Miamians think they invented everything Cuban,” Huse said then. “When Miami was hardly a gleam in an alligator’s eye, we had a thriving community in Ybor.”

The one thing everybody seems to agree on? Cuban sandwiches aren’t as good as they used to be. Not enough pressing. Not the right kind of pressing. Lesser ham. No-good pork. Too many cooks fixin’ what wasn’t broke.

Esquire, by the way, in the current issue proposed a twist: “Our take uses mild Italian prosciutto cotto; a roasted pork butt rubbed with dried orange peel, which echoes the citrus juice in the original marinade; and slightly sweet potato rolls.

Yum? Or hmm?



One thought on “Esquire names Miami the ‘true home’ of the Cuban sandwich, Tampa has a hissy fit

  1. Tampa and its issues aside, the home of the Cuban sandwich certainly isn’t Cuba, and hasn’t been for ages.

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