Day 69: Cuba
Cuba is a relatively small country, but it’s well known for a lot of reasons— music, dancing, the U.S. trade embargo, cigars and whole roasted pigs. Now unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to dance, sing or import goods and services from Cuba lately, but I did smoke a Cuban cigar on Saturday and I am about to go ahead and eat some parts from a whole roasted pig. Oh, and for the record, if there’s a country out there that for some reason wants to get on my good side— just become good at roasting whole pigs. It’s not a lot to ask for and I think you’ll enjoy it too (Sorry, Muslim nations. You’ll have to try something else).
After a particularly hectic day of stressful job hunting after writing the day’s post, GirlfriendBites and I are headed down to Redondo Beach for Havana Mania’s Tuesday night whole roasted pig. I’ve personally been a bit of an ass today and in a pretty foul mood, worrying over finances and saying things like “Any normal human being would look at their bank account right now and decide that they probably shouldn’t go out to dinner every single God damned day. What the hell is wrong with me?” But GFB is getting pretty good at dealing with me when I find extra reasons to be miserable and is coming along to make sure I don’t somehow wind up crumpled in a ball by the highway. We pull into a massive strip mall, park right in front of the restaurant, walk in and immediately get the GFB stamp of approval. “I like this place.” See that, people? It’s not that hard. Just make your restaurant look accessible and serve a whole roasted pig. That’s how you get white couples in their mid-20s to come to dinner. “Ooh. Happy hour,” says GFB, “I’m buying you a mojito.” Our server comes up to us and we order right away. We know what we want and actually have a lot more work to do when we get home, so we don’t have a ton of time.
Now I don’t know about everyone else out there, but when I’m in a bad mood, it turns out that one of the best cures in the world is a giant slab of freshly roasted pork skin, resting atop juicy shredded swine meat with onions, garlic sauce and sides of white rice, black beans and fried plantains. I’m sorry, what was I worried about? The first bite of pork skin really ought to be eaten with your hands, so I pick it up and crunch through the wonderful fat brittle which crumbles, dances, then melts on my tongue. I try to soak up the saliva with the mop of wet, delicious meat, but it only manages to create more. The crunch of the onions, the tang of the acid, the mellowing cleanse of the rice and beans— life, for the moment, has improved. In case people out there don’t know the difference between a pig cooked whole, versus a pig which has its parts cooked separately, allow me to explain. When it’s cooked whole, the parts flavor each other. You know how good bacon is? Well bacon once lived inside of a pig. So when you cook the delicious guy or girl all together, that bacon, along with many other cuts, spread their juicy wonders to the rest of it. The flavors are deeper, richer and more complex. You can really taste the difference. Also, while I haven’t had a better whole roasted pig than the one here, there are most certainly better ones out there. The ones that are actually in Cuba, for example. Or China. Or Bali. Even the United States has their own take on the whole roasted pig or, “whole hog barbecue” which is especially popular in places like Tennessee. So if you’ve got a pig, do us all a favor and roast the whole thing. It’s more respectful to the animal. I promise.
So while I demolish every last morsel on my plate, GFB is eating pollo saltado, chicken sautéed in a bright tomato sauce most famous in Peru. The version here is pretty respectable, but the larger chunks of chicken have dried out, opening up the desire for them to have been shredded and cooked to a more tender level. But it’s been a quick, easy and extremely satisfying meal, with some tasty mojitos to wash the whole thing down, and I’m actually feeling a lot better. The bill comes and GFB grabs it. “I’m not gonna buy you dinner every time you’re in a bad mood. But I will tonight.” Have I mentioned yet that I love this woman?
3615 Inglewood Ave
Redondo Beach, CA 90278
Food Breakdown: 2 alcoholic beverages, 2 entrées
Distance From My House: 11.9 miles