Culture

A History Of Ropa Vieja, One Of Cuba’s Most Famous (And Forbidden) National Dishes

On a cold winter day, what is better than coming home to a huge bowl of Cuban ropa vieja? If you’ve ever had this delicious dish, you know how hearty and nutritious it is: more than a simple meat stew, ropa vieja is the bread and butter of Cuban cuisine, offering some serious nutrition for the body and soul. Made with shredded beef, onions, peppers, and salsa de tomate, it sounds simple, but it’s got a complex and multilayered history that is sure to make your mouth water.

Ropa vieja is widely regarded as a Cuban national dish, though it is popular all throughout the Caribbean.

Credit: Pinterest

As is the case with most things food and beverage, it’s difficult to trace the exact origins of ropa vieja—with its strikingly simple and straightforward ingredients, one might argue that ropa vieja is just a clever term for a basic meal. The name “ropa vieja” translates to “old clothes,” and legend has it that a poor old man once shredded and cooked the clothes off his back in order to feed his hungry family. As the clothes simmered away, the man prayed, and they transformed into a meal of meat and vegetables that would cure his family’s hunger. Of course, this is a slightly fantastical origin story, though ropa vieja—with its salt-of-the earth ingredients—is definitely the kind of dish that would support a working man’s lifestyle.

Although Cuba’s identity is undeniably entwined with ropa vieja, the dish actually originated in the Canary Islands of Spain, dating back to the Middle Ages. Colonization brought several Spanish influences to the Americas, and ropa vieja was one such thing—however, the earliest documentation of ropa vieja‘s presence in Cuba did not appear until 1857, in a cookbook titled Nuevo Manual del Cocinero Cubano y Español. But another indication that ropa vieja originated in Spain is its presence in Filipino cuisine (the Philippines were also a Spanish colony).

Of course, in addition to Cuba, ropa vieja started to emerge in other parts of the Caribbean (and eventually throughout Latin America), with each country creating its own characteristic version.

Credit: Pinterest

Unlike the Canarian version, which is highly savory, Cuba’s version has a sort of sweet undertone, which is usually achieved through the use of bell peppers (sometimes sugar is even added to ensure the proper amount of sweetness). In the Philippines, ropa vieja is usually enhanced with fish sauce and served with white jasmine rice. It’s served in Puerto Rico, Venezuela (where it’s known as pabellon), and Panama. And throughout the Caribbean, ropa vieja is characteristically served with frijoles, arroz, platanos, or all of the above. In the Canary Islands, it’s complemented primarily with garbanzo beans and a hefty serving of potatoes.

Ropa vieja is still a household staple throughout Spain. Back in the day, ropa vieja existed as a way to take advantage of leftovers whenever a Spanish stew—like a garbanzo-based puchero or cocida—was cooked. Puchero was typically made in the morning, and the meat used to flavor the stock would be turning to shreds by the time lunch came around. Cooks would strain the meat from the soup and saute it with a sofrito base of onions, peppers, garlic, tomato paste, and other seasonings. Then, garbanzo beans from the soup were then added to the meat and voila! Ropa vieja. And even though the quality of life in contemporary Spain doesn’t necessarily require such thrifty approaches to cooking, people often still prepare extra meat so that they can make ropa vieja the following day.

Unfortunately, ropa vieja is not nearly as common in Cuban kitchens as it once was, as beef is heavily restricted by the government.

“Ropa vieja, and beef in general, are meals reserved for the rich and tourists, two words that may as well be in interchangeable in a country with an average monthly salary of about $20,” Eli Francovich wrote in an article for AP News. “What tourists eat in Cuban restaurants and homes is very different than what the average Cuban eats, he said. The vegetables and meats served to foreigners aren’t available in the stores where normal Cubans shop.”

In 1963, Fidel Castro and the Cuban government made it illegal for Cubans to eat or sell their own cattle—in order to do so, they must first get permission from the state. The law started out as a temporary solution to a 20% deficit in the nation’s cows from unsuccessful cross-breeding and a series of natural disasters. The law aimed to restore the nation’s herds to pre-revolution levels when there was roughly one cow for each person. 

The law didn’t work, though. As of 2015, there were 30% fewer Cuban cattle than in 1958. And today, Cubans are still suffering from this de facto state monopoly.

So, the next time you indulge in a plate of ropa vieja, try to acknowledge what a privilege it is to enjoy this dish. Que aproveches!

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A Mexican Artist Is Making Pancake Art That’s Too Beautiful To Eat

Culture

A Mexican Artist Is Making Pancake Art That’s Too Beautiful To Eat

Social media is where people can show off just about anything they create. This includes art in any and all media, like pancake art. Claudia, the creator behind Nappan Pancake art, is the latest artist watching their art reach the masses.

Claudia, the artist behind Nappan Pancake art, got her start because of the pandemic.

The artist first started to play around with pancake art last spring break when the pandemic forced businesses and schools to close. Claudia wanted to get more creative with her kids’ breakfasts since they were now always at home.

“I started experimenting with making Pancake art,” Claudia recalls to mitú. “At first I only used the color of the natural dough and a little cocoa. At first, I just used the ketchup dispensers and little by little I learned.”

Claudia uses her pancake art to honor some truly iconic people.

@nappancakes

Responder a @detodoun_poco233 Cepillín ✨🥞✨ en nuestros ♥️ #parati #fy #HijosAdopTiktoks #adoptiktoks #viral #foryou @cepillintv #pancakeart ncakeart

♬ La Feria de Cepillin – Cepillín

Cepillín recently died and the loss was felt throughout the community. He made our lives joyous and fun with his music, especially his birthday song. Some of the creations are done for fans who request to see their faves turned into delicious pancake art.

The artist loves creating the edible works of art.

The journey of becoming a pancake artist has been a fun adventure for Claudia and her children. The more she has practiced, the more she has been able to do.

“Sometimes I scream with excitement and I go to all the members of my house to see it,” Claudia says about her successes. “Other times it’s just a feeling like “disappointment could be better” other times it just breaks or burns and then I just cry but it usually feels very satisfying.”

You can check out all of her creations on TikTok.

@nappancakes

Responder a @reyna100804santoyo siii🥞✨ díganle que me adopte 🥺 @ederbez #adoptiktoks #hijosadoptiktoks #parati #foryou #viral #fy #art #pancakeart

♬ Little Bitty Pretty One – Thurston Harris

With 350,000 followers and growing, it won’t be long until more people start to fully enjoy Claudia’s art. Her children can’t get enough of it and she is so excited to share it with the rest of the world.

READ: Spicy Food Lovers Have Reason To Celebrate As New Study Says Eating Chilies Could Be Secret To Longevity

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Viral Video Of Overworked Texas Dominos Workers Burdened By Snow Storm Goes Viral

Things That Matter

Viral Video Of Overworked Texas Dominos Workers Burdened By Snow Storm Goes Viral

Texas’s current power crisis from a devastating storm has disrupted power generation and frozen natural gas pipelines. The is historic storm has driven electric demand higher than the state has ever seen, but it’s not just electric energy being overextended as a result. It’s physical and mental human energy as well.

Recently, an image of two exhausted Domino’s Pizza workers went viral for showing the extreme exhaustion workers are experiencing.

In a post shared to News4sanantonio.com’s Chime In page a user by the name of July DeLuna explained “This Dominos in San Antonio. Working during this crisis. They had a weekend worth of food and it was gone within 4 hours. This team helped those that needed help. These are the essential workers that need recognition. They were the only pizza place open. Every pizza place was closed but dominos stayed open to help those in need.”

Little else is known about the exhausted workers in the viral image but it did rack up over 8K comments within hours of being posted.

“Dominoes better pay them for the shifts they’ll miss while they don’t have any ingredients. With this practical free advertising it’s the least they could do. Otherwise these kind people worked themselves out of already bad hourly pay,” one user commented.

“,As someone who works in the food service industry, the thought of selling out of all product in only four hours and how much work goes in to preparing that much food is unfathomable levels of nightmare fuel,” another noted.

In another response to the image, a Reddit user wrote “I cannot express to you how upsetting it is to be the only food source open during hard times, to still be open and show up to do your job with higher than normal levels of orders, and still get yelled at by management for not having orders out within a window of time.”

Images of overworked and stressed is nothing new of course.

Fast-food workers are often burdened by their field’s daily challenges. In 2020, food industry workers are being forced to endure customer abuse at even higher rates. Last year a TikTok video of a Subway restaurant falling asleep while in the middle of making a sandwich went viral.

“This is actually really sad. I can’t imagine how underslept she is. Not to mention the wage people get paid at Subway… She deserves better,” one TikTok user by the name of Monique Emilia commented at the time. The skincare influencer Hyram also commented writing “Poor thing… Can’t imagine how underslept she is, we’re too hard on service workers.”

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