Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cuba de Ayer Restaurant

Last week I took three friends with me to Cuba de Ayer Restaurant in Burtonsville, MD. One of them is addicted to Cuban food, but the other two - one a Canadian and the other a Brit - had never had Cuban food in their entire life.

This was my also first visit to Cuba de Ayer, although (since as some of you know, I'm of Cuban ancestry) every time someone who knows me goes there, they tell me what a great place it is, so I was overdue for a visit.

The restaurant is very cozy and when we came in at lunch time it was packed, which is always a good sign.

The pretty waitress took our orders and my alarm bells went up a little when she asked if we wanted our black beans and rice "together" or "separate." I say that my alarm bells went off because "Moros y Cristianos" -- the Cuban name for black beans and rice -- is NEVER served together; never, ever, ever! It is a cultural error and a true and easy test of the Cubanosity of any restaurant.

I ordered my favorite Cuban dish in the world... OK, OK, one of my favorites, "lechon asado", which came with black beans, white rice and tostones (actually a choice of tostones or sweet fried plantains).

I breathed a sigh of relief when my friends' dishes came... what the waitress meant as "together" was actually "congri" which is a separate dish where the black beans (or red) are indeed cooked together... a Cuban version of dirty rice, but much tastier.

Both the Brit and the Canadian ordered "ropa vieja" with "congri" and they both loved it... my English friend actually said: "I can't believe that a simple rice dish can taste so good!"

So Cuba de Ayer gets my highest endorsement!

One last thing: When the food came, I was explaining some of the cultural references that I mentioned above. I must have been loud enough to be heard by other people, because as we filed out of the restaurant, the very attractive daughter of the owners came out, introduced herself and asked me if I was Cuban, as she had overheard me describe the cultural aspects of the food.

So we met, chatted a little, and we all passed to her our enthusiastic thumbs up of the food... I will be back

Cuba de Ayer is located at 15446 Old Columbia Pike, Burtonsville, MD 20866, (301) 476-9622.


Anonymous said...

So, "moros and cristianos" for beans and rice? let me guess who is Racism in your country of origin is engrained in the culture. So, can it be said that Che's appreciations about black people had a lot to do with cultural influences.

Lenny said...

You bet... racism is unfortunately very deeply embedded in Cuban culture... A couple of years ago I did a series of posts about black Cubans in Cuba today and their valid complaints about entrenched discrimination in Cuban society... and about a decade ago the Washington Post had a series of four articles on the same subject. Cuban Spanish is the only Spanish dialect with its own version of the N-word, etc.

Che's virulent racism comes from his Argentine upbringing - that's my theory - rather than his immersion in Cuban-grown racism.

Disturbing but true...

Anonymous said...

That is totally true, he was born and raised in Argentina. I guess my point is that, while not acceptable (now), Che's racism was cultural and responded to the times he lived. I would say that more than 1/2 people in his time would share the views he had about black people. In this country people have become more politically correct and certain things are not said in public because they are condemned by the law or just not acceptable. society in this country has evolved unlike in other parts of the world where racism is accepted as part of culture. If Che would be a man of our times, he would probably not have shared his views.

Lenny said...

That is such a brilliant observation! And you are so right! I imagine that a smart man like Guevara would know what to keep hidden and what words to mouth out or write... even George Wallace learned that in his latter years.

Really good point...