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National Cuban Sandwich Day on August 23 celebrates the joy of devouring a humble yet heroic Cuban sandwich. Whether it’s a casual budget-friendly lunch or evening treat, there’s never a bad time to enjoy the traditional sandwich. But, there’s much more to the Cuban sandwich than the famous flavor combinations.
It’s no secret that the birthplace of the Cuban sandwich — as the name suggests — is from the largest island nation of the Caribbean. The sandwich is mostly characterized by its delectable blend of ham, cheese, pork, and mustard. Moreover, cubanos represent the melting pot of culture in the country!
History of National Cuban Sandwich Day
The first Cuban sandwich is believed to be created more than a quincentenary ago by the Cuban Taíno tribe. One of three tribes who inhabited Cuba before the Europeans arrived, they supposedly used casabe bread — which is made from yucca — to create the dish. However, pork was unavailable at the time, so the Taínos stuffed fish and bird meat between the crunchy slices of casabe.
When Europeans — primarily Spaniards — eventually arrived on the island, meats such as pork and ham became part of the native’s diets, transforming the Cuban sandwich into what we recognize in modern-times. Casabe, which was more of a crunchy and thin bread at the time, made way for a doughy, bread-like alternative.
We thank the Cuban influence in Tampa during the mid-1860s for making the Cuban sandwich what it is today. The sandwich likely originated in the Key West as a common lunch food to Cuban workers who sailed back and forth for employment, pleasure, and family visits. However, history is rather murky of its exact creation in the country, because of the largely undocumented movement of people between the island nation and the United States.
Later on, Miami fell in love with the sandwich when Cuban expatriates introduced the sandwich to the area during the 1960s. The Cuban sandwich became so popular, that there is now a long-standing friendly rivalry between Tampa and Miami. So much so that in 2012, Tampa designated the “Historic Cuban Sandwich” and the “signature sandwich of the city of Tampa.”
Alongside ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, salami is also included in the Cuban bread recipe in Tampa, due to the area’s large Italian immigrant population. The Communist Revolution also brought a wave of Cuban immigrants to other cities in the country, such as New York, New Jersey, and Chicago, where variations of the sandwich popped up. Even with it’s simple appearance, the Cuban sandwich illustrates that the soul is more important than anything.
National Cuban Sandwich Day timeline
Historians theorize the sandwich we all know and love today is first recognized when the immigrant-rich Ybor City and West Tampa describe workers’ cafes in the area.
The Tampa Cuban sandwich is recognized in a travel article, naming it a complete meal consisting of ham, lean pork, Swiss cheese, salami, pickle, and mustard.
All ingredients of the Cuban sandwich make it to the first and all following editions of popular recipe collection “The Gasparilla Cookbook.”
Competition ensues between Miami and Tampa over the Cuban sandwich influence in America, so much so that Tampa designates it as the “signature sandwich of the city of Tampa.”
National Cuban Sandwich Day FAQs
Are Cuban sandwiches really Cuban?
Although history is a bit sketchy, the recognized Cuban sandwich we know today likely originated in cafes catering to Cuban workers in Tampa or Key West.
What is the famous Cuban sandwich called?
Also known as a Cubano, the undeniably delicious meal is a variation of a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.
What is on Panera Bread Cuban Sandwich?
It’s usually made with artisan ingredients consisting of a ciabatta bun topped with premium ham, shredded pork, mustard, Emmental cheese, and sweet pickles.
National Cuban Sandwich Day Activities
Make your own Cuban sandwich
What better way to kickstart the day than to make your own variant of the tasty treat! Salami or no salami, compile the delectable ingredients and share it with friends and family. Better yet, hold a lunch so everyone can enjoy the deliciousness.
Celebrate the countries melting pot of culture
The Cuban sandwich as it is today wouldn’t be around without immigrant influence and cultural exchange through the means of food. Food is actually one of the most effective — not to mention tasty — means of celebrating culture.
Enjoy a meal in a restaurant
Taking friends and family along to enjoy a tasty Cuban sandwich meal is a sure way to celebrate the day in style. Wherever a Cuban sandwich is on the menu, take a pick of the numerous restaurants and cafes that serve it and celebrate the day.
5 Fun Facts About Cuban Sandwich Day
Hoax turned into a holiday
A writer from the Tampa Bay Times decided to perform an experiment to see if people would celebrate a holiday he made up in 2016. It has stuck ever since then.
The ‘true’ Cuban sandwich
Many say the true famous sandwich starts with Cuban bread. This includes 8-12 inches of loaf slices, lightly brushed with olive oil, cut in half horizontally.
Recreating the age-old delicacy
Putting aside Tampa and Miami for a moment, traditional Cuban bread baking is far from easy. Above all, a moist palmetto leaf on top of the dough before it’s baked must be present for the flavor.
“In a raft from Cuba”
Tampa famously renamed the Cuban sandwich “Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich,”which prompted former Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado to say, “The Cuban sandwich came in a raft from Cuba.”
Just a sandwich
The Cuban sandwich is popular all the same in the US and Cuba, except in Cuba, locals just ask for a sandwich.
Why We Love National Cuban Sandwich Day
Different delicious variants
From different styles of bread to a variety of ingredients or how the pork is cooked, the Cuban sandwich is tasty nonetheless and is a prime example of a simple yet delicious meal.
Perhaps there is no other food quite like the Cuban sandwich which represents the United States’ history as a melting pot of culture at the turn of the century.
A global hit
The traditionally pressed sandwich and its many forms is so delicious that it spread from Tampa to restaurant menus all over the world. The day is a cause for celebration of culture and sharing!
National Cuban Sandwich Day dates