Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cuban Sandwich Show 2012 VII: Food for Thought: Forum on the History of Food in Tampa

At the breakfast/coffee in the lobby.

On August 11th, at HCC Ybor the Cuban Sandwich Show (CSS) held the History of Food in Tampa Panel Discussion, with Tom Shereberger, from the Poynter Institute and former food editor for the St. Petersburg Times as Moderator; historian and USF scholar Gary Mormino, Chris Sherman, former restaurant critic for the St. Petersburg Times; Retired Judge E.J. Salcines and Yvonne Yolie Chapin, Tampa City Councilwoman.

David Audet introducing the panelists
The discussion began with an inquiry into the origins of the Cuban Sandwich, which is now, thanks to Ms. Chapin and David Audet, the Official Signature Sandwich  of the City of Tampa. Seriously, look up Resolution 338. In Section I, you'll find the ingredients carefully described, including the making of the bread, how long the bread should be (some leeway there, 8-10 inches), though the scored half should go on top. Then the sliced strata of ham, roast pork, marinated in mojo and garlic, of course. Next, the salami (one slice), followed by one slice of dry swiss cheese, three pickles, yellow mustard and no mayo. 

Tom Shereberger, moderator.
Ms. Chapin said lawyers drafted all this. The origins of that Ur-staple of Tampa seems to have emerged in the happy hour (Ok, not really, just after-work) spreads the taverns in Ybor laid out for the cigar rollers hoping they would stay and buy more beer and booze. Eventually according to much-disputed legend, this made its way into the lunchbags of cigar rollers, who would picnic at lunchtime. That Resolution has gotten Tampa mention in several media outlets around the world, caused a showdown held at Centennial Park, which Tampa won, and ultimately the ripples spread through timespace and reportedly will result in a National Geographic article coming up soon about Tampa and its food.

Dr. Mormino & Ms. Chapin
Dr. Mormino eloquently stated his objections to the slice of salami, offering historical evidence, and dismissing the myth that it represented the Germans in Ybor, because there weren't any there even if the German Club was. Foodies in the audience added lots of relevant data er... great stories and eyewitness reports to the discussion. Joe Diaz, of the family that owns Olympia Bakery, clarified that the dill pickle did not come in until the '50s, and that two sour pickles were used. Throughout the discussion, the subtext that kept emerging was that of Tampa and Ybor during another time, when friends met in real life, families gathered and shared feasts prepared collaboratively, and more. When one could catch blue crabs easily at water's edge and they were safe to eat. Yes, there were lots of hardships, poverty and more, but it was a different, and in many ways, wonderful time.

The Panelists
Two conclusions were reached: That Tampa owns the Cuban Sandwich, or at least Cuban bread, and  the crab enchilado [Link] are our indigenous foods. At every turn, the Cuban Sandwich Show reminds us that we have a rich, multi-hued past, that we have much to be proud of, real things created with the lives of real, everyday working-class heroes. 
 ---  Luis

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