Savored Memories and the Cuban Culinary Imaginary: Digital Archive & Analysis

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Main contributor
Ferguson, Kane
This project investigates the origins of the Cuban cuisine memorialized in the recent nostalgic writing of Cuban exiles. Playwright Eduardo Machado’s 2007 memoir, Tastes Like Cuba: An Exile’s Hunger for Home, for example, includes 30 replicable and relevant family recipes. While my dissertation research argues that these recipes serve as an alternative means of return to a remembered pre-revolutionary Cuba that is otherwise inaccessible, this project delves much deeper into the culinary archive of that remembered Cuba. Tastes Like Cuba takes its name from Machado’s grandfather’s quest to recreate the flavors of the arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) that he made in Cuba before the family left in the wake of the Revolution. In the memoir, the dish illustrates the ways in which exile transforms everyday things. Inspired by Machado’s attention to arroz con pollo, my interest in Cuban cookbooks begins with the challenge to find the original recipe, which was left out of the memoir. Therefore, I take Machado’s arroz con pollo as my anchor for comparison with the recipes included in Eugenio de Coloma y Garcés’ 1856 Manual del cocinero cubano, which is widely accepted as the first collection of recipes described as culturally Cuban. By tracing the origins of this dish—archetypal of 1950s Havana cuisine—this project dialogues with historical and political Cuban food scholarship while challenging popular understandings of iconic foods, homogenous national cuisine, and (national) culinary symbolism.
IDAH Spring Symposium
Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities
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Presented at the IDAH Spring Symposium, Maxwell Hall, Indiana University Bloomington, April 22, 2022.

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This item is accessible by: the public.