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Havana Salsa: Stories and Recipes Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 22, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atria; First Printing edition (August 22, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743285166
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743285162
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,268,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Food columnist Carballo's devotion to both her Cuban homeland and the magnificent food of her childhood are evident in this memoir with recipes. She grew up in prerevolutionary Cuba in the 1950s with divorced parents—her father, a philandering fortune-teller, instilled in his daughter a passion for food. "My dad loved every kind of food and always encouraged me to sample right along with him," Carballo writes. "He took pleasure in every bite. It was a joyful experience, and since then I have always associated food with being cosseted, with being happy." This anecdote is followed by a recipe for Roast Duck El Pacifico. Each vignette is a mere tidbit, a taste of Carballo's life, covering her family's eccentric friends, her years in an American convent boarding school, her early romances, right up to her escape to the U.S. after Castro came to power. The stories are not as consistently fulfilling as the recipes; the ones she doesn't tell are quite interesting: "Little did I know that my mother was on a mission to the Sierra Maestra carrying medicines and small arms" is virtually all she writes about her mother's astonishing work. The memoir is a treat, although more substantial fare would have been nice. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"What a delicious, romantic, bawdy, touching spell Viviana Carballo casts over us in her memoir/cookbook, Havana Salsa. With her original and immensely charming voice we are transported through her memories of Cuba in the 40s and 50s when the enthralling power, the 'magic realism' that Cuba had in spades was alive and well. She saves it and then teaches us how to prepare these lusty flavors that can come alive again in our kitchens. What an inspiration, what a joyride!"

-- Chef Norman Van Aken, founder of Norman's Restaurants USA and author of New World Kitchen

"I have seen and probably own every Cuban cookbook published since the 1950s, and Havana Salsa goes way beyond black beans! It is so well researched -- no cookbook collection can do without it, and it brings back the past in a delicious and decadent way."

-- Chef Douglas Rodriguez, restaurateur and author of The Great Ceviche Book

"A delectable collection of remembrances and recipes, Havana Salsa captures the exotic and enigmatic flavors of Cuba's past. With a fresh and uninhibited style, Viviana Carballo ventures beyond the merely nostalgic and invites us to ponder the tantalizing notion that, while the Cuba she knew is gone forever, through her love for the art of cooking it is still possible to savor some aspects of her country's former glory today."

-- Cecilia Samartin, author of Broken Paradise --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.


More About the Author

Havana Salsa: Stories & Recipes is my first book although I have been in the eating business since childhood under the influence of my eccentric father first and later more seriously when I lived in Manhattan as a flight attendant exposed too many truly great restaurants in the City and abroad. But even while I had long enjoyed the pleasure of eating, I hadn't yet mastered the art of cooking and it was out of necessity that I finally did.

My boyfriend du jour was an impecunious graduate student and neither he nor I could afford the gastronomic delicacies our dreams were made of. So I started cooking French food (the height of exquisiteness at the time) with a modicum of success. As my skills progressed somewhat, I thought I was ready to try a souffl' to impress the boyfriend and show him my talents went beyond banana cream pie, his fave. Notwithstanding the limitations of my kitchen, which was situated in a closet with a half fridge and a stove that dropped the oven door open when heated to a high temperature. The blisters on my legs were a testimony of the same. But I was determined; certainly a strawberry souffl' would do the trick. Before buying the strawberries, though, I needed equipment. Off I went to the legendary Fred Bridge store, legendary, not only because he carried copper pots and numerous French gadgets, but legendary because he, Fred Bridge, was the most irascible, crochety, and unpleasant man who had ever managed to stay in business.

After the usual hostile exchange with Fred, I brought home a copper bowl and a whisk to beat the egg whites. It was considered bad form to use an electric mixer ' something about the quality or size of the molecules. I also bought a splendid souffl' dish.

And I set out to make the souffl'. After buttering the souffl' dish and preparing the copper bowl with a swirl of vinegar to produce firmer beaten egg whites (again with the molecules) I set out my ingredients; eggs room temperature and carefully separated ' not a speck of yolk on the egg whites, strawberries cleaned, hulled and thinly sliced dusted with cornstarch so they wouldn't bleed and some others mashed to a pur'e, butter, flour, sugar, boiling milk, a pinch of salt. I made the cr'me patissiere, the base of the souffl', added the mashed strawberries and sliced ones too and proceeded to beat my egg whites. Impeccable they were ' I folded them in carefully and finally, rather triumphantly I poured the concoction in the buttered dish ' a thing of beauty, but not a joy for long.

Everything was going well, I was feeling very joyful and I trusted the stove wouldn't play any of her usual tricks. It didn't. I was thrilled to see the souffl' was rising and rising if a little dangerously fast. All of a sudden the souffl' started sputtering, turning into a volcano of Krakatoa proportions, there was half cooked souffl' everywhere ' on the ceiling of the oven, on the bottom, spilling out through the sides of the oven door ' my act of bravado turning into a Lucy Ricardo skit with souffl' all over including the kitchen floor. I was crying in shame and anger, but the boyfriend thought it was hilarious and laughed and laughed, guffaws come to mind, even while choking as I made him eat the ill-fated souffl' off the floor.

But it was that Disaster (with a capital D) that changed the course of my life. I decided right then and there to learn how to cook professionally. If I couldn't afford to eat well and my attempts at refined cooking where such a catastrophe, I was going to go to the best cooking school I could find.

A few months later I was living in Paris, learning French, and attending Le Cordon Bleu 'cole de Cuisine.

Customer Reviews

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See all 9 customer reviews
This little gem is a delightful read.
Cubagal
This is a lovely book full of great stories and great recipes.
Mrs. Tanker
Love her recipes, brings back very old memories.
Vivian St Pierre

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Three Guys from Miami on September 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
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The last 10 years have brought a wealth of "growing up Cuban" memoirs, most notably "Waiting for Snow in Havana," "Tropicana Nights," and "Finding Mañana." Funny thing is, we just can't get enough of them. We guess it's because they bring memories of a Cuba we can only dream about -- the glory days of Cuba that are slowly fading in our memories.

Viviana Carballo has added to the mix with a delightful account of her own rather eccentric family's experiences both BC (Before Castro) and after. Reading this book is a little like pulling up a stool and listening to the stories of a favorite (albeit a little saucy) great aunt. As in many homes of the time and especially in the better homes of Havana, Carballo's mother cooked only occasionally, mostly for holidays and special occasions. The real culinary magic was performed by Dulce, the Carballo's cook and a devout follower of Santeria -- a religion that combines African mystic belief with Catholic faith. It was here that Viviana Carballo first learned the basics of Cuban cuisine, in a kitchen that was quite literally watched over by the Gods.

For those who survived the "revolution," no Cuban life story is without pain and suffering and Carballo's experiences are especially heartrending. Her father is branded a counter-revolutionary and locked up in one of Castro's gulags where he dies after two years of inhumane treatment. When she decides to flee the island, she must leave her husband behind, a horrible Sophie's choice that no woman should ever be faced with.

Carballo seasons her narrative with some 70 recipes for Cuban dishes, some very traditional, although there is a strong emphasis on dishes from the mother country, Spain.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Allie on July 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really like that this is a cookbook that is not a cookbook....she provides such fabulous imagery of Cuba in its hey day. I am mesmerized by the tales and delight in completing an admittedly...."This is the way I remember it" recipe!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Vivian St Pierre on September 6, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Being from Havana myself and coming over to the States as a 12 year old I can relate to not only some of her stories but the way it has been written is so true to life in Cuba during that era. Love her recipes, brings back very old memories.

Vivian St Pierre
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cubagal on November 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
Havana Salsa:Stories and Recipes is just that, a wonderful recounting of a girl's life in pre-Castro Cuba with eccentric and very colorful relatives and family friends and the comfort foods they cooked. An excellent story teller, Viviana Carballo intertwines her stories with recipes that bring back nostalgia as the smells and tastes of Cuba come alive throughout this book. As a fellow Cuban I enjoyed the author's character descriptions, recounting of familiar places, interesting anecdotes and the many memories she shares with her readers. The recipes are easy to follow and characteristically Cuban. This little gem is a delightful read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Hypathia on April 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A touching story of how promptly a life can change, and how cuisine and food memories tend to support us, even without knowing ourselves that food memories can sustain us emotionally
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