Two years ago, I had never tasted the insanity that is Cuban food. I met the love of my life and shortly after we became a couple, he introduced me to the traditional foods of his culture and there has been nothing but mojo bliss ever since.
However, with new love usually comes a blind side. For the first time since losing 120 pounds, I became so enthralled with new foods that the old addictive behaviors I had left far in my past had returned and I fell victim to myself and my old ways. Within a couple of months, I had gained about fifteen pounds of Cuban bliss and knew that because this delicious cuisine was going to be a constant component of my life, it was imperative I learn how to control it calorically.
In Cuban culture, it’s okay to be “thick.” Girls are often feared for if the elders think they’re too thin. Other hispanic cultures have similar views, but I am going to write this blog from my point of view, which is primarily based on my firsthand experience in Cuban culture.
It was very hard to adjust to these new foods without justifying that it was okay to gain some weight. I would tell my partner, “This is the first time I’ve ever been in a restaurant without feeling self-conscious for not being at my goal weight.” Among the patrons, I was most likely viewed as one of those “too-skinny Americanos” and I liked that!
But then things changed. I had to maintain a certain weight for my job and people I worked with began to ask questions, wondered if I was okay, etc. My boss was very understanding and she told me that such weight gains happen with new love – yeah, for Cuban food!
The portions were enormous. The rice was saturated with olive oil. The pan Cubanowas unlike any other bread I’d ever tasted. Properly pressed with the perfect amount of mantequilla (butter) and delivered to the table by the pan girl piping hot. From masitas de puerco to arroz con pollo to frijoles negro y platanos maduros, I was in heaven! I HAD TO DO SOMETHING!
So I took a different approach. I know that carbs love my body and will stay forever, so I made the following changes:
- Instead of my own basket of pan, I had a piece or two of the less butter-saturated variety.
- When thechicharrones (skins)were brought to the table, I’d have one instead of half the basket.
- If it was lunchtime or early afternoon, a carby dish was in order. Arroz con pollo, Cuban Sandwich, etc.
- If it was dinner time, I needed to choose more of a protein. Masas de puerco, Arroz con pollo but push 2/3 of the rice to the side and eat primarily the chicken (after removing the skin) and a third of the rice.
- Who doesn’t love a croqueta? I apologize for my spelling if I slaughter it – I’m still learning. They are loaded with fat and oil and should be limited to ONE – when and if you must have it. I love croquetas de jamon, queso, pollo, etc.
- Desserts were a big problem. From pastelitos to turron, dulce de leche, tres leches, etc. – aye, Dios mio! What to do!? Cafe con leche, absolutely! It usually comes with leche regular y sucar (whole milk & sugar) but you can order it with skim milk and without sugar, usually substituting Splenda or another sweetener. You can also get a cortadito which is a shot of Cuban coffee with a little shot of your milk choice and choice of sweetener. You can always just get a plain shot of Cuban coffee. Yum! When I really want to indulge I get a Cafe con Leche sans sucar y leche Evaporada – with evaporated milk and without sugar. QUE RICO!
- You have to remember – eat certain types of foods at certain types of day.
Food is definitely a big part of most cultures and should be enjoyed. However, you shouldn’t have to suffer after eating, no matter what type of food you’re eating and no matter where you’re eating it.
If you’re in the Miami area, I HIGHLY recommend the Latin American restaurant on 57th Ave & 8th Street (Red Road y Calle Ocho). The food is a steal when you consider how much you get, the atmosphere, the wonderful employees and the overall experience. With one bite, you will understand immediately why there is always a line out the door for this traditional cafeteria.
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