The Funny Thing About A Fake Cuban
Some people are all riled up over the gorilla this week. That’s not me. I have a hard time understanding people’s affection for the animals they keep as pets, so deep feelings for an animal I’ve never met aren’t going to happen.
I eat meat. I wear leather. I use soap. I love cheese. I read glossy magazines.
Which isn’t to say I’m entirely heartless. I don’t want to see animals tormented. I do want to see their sacrifices be respected. And I think we should be treating those creatures who pay the ultimate sacrifice for our nutrition and pleasure much better than we currently are.
From what I gather, I’m not alone in my dissatisfaction with meat and dairy production in the United States. Whether it’s the quality of the feed, the conditions in which the animals live, or the methods in which they are killed, there’s a lot of room for improvement in the system. And it’s not just the animals. The speed of the line and specialization of tasks takes its toll on the human workers too. Plus the hard working farmers always seem to get screwed.
But let’s bring this back to food, because the controversy I want to tackle is about the vegan Cuban.
First, I am really excited about this place, and can’t wait to get in there. One of the things they make is a vegan version of a cuban sandwich. And it costs over $10. Over on AOA, Daniel Naylor commented on the ridiculousness of paying over $10 for a fake Cuban sandwich.
And I totally agree, but probably for a different reason than most. After all, I’m a former Floridian.
Cuban sandwiches, much like po’ boys and banh mi, exist solely because they were cheap eats. Sure, they became popular because they are delicious as well. But as others tried to cash in on the popularity of the Cuban sandwich, it lost an important connection to its roots.
Cheap bread, made with lard. One thin slice of roast pork. One thin slice of ham. One thin slice of cheese. A few thin slices of pickles. A little mustard. All put in a grill press to make it hot enough for the cheese to melt and bind it all together.
The balance of the sandwich gets thrown off when places try to be “generous”.
Generosity is the great failing of the Cubano. Because restaurants want to load this sandwich up with filling. When you do that, not only does it get more expensive, but it also departs from its original and glorious proportions.
Forget whether or not the sandwich at Berben & Wolff’s is made with real meat or not. Even a quick glance of a casual photograph reveals that this version is a ridiculous parody of the real deal just based on the amount of filling.
And of course there is the issue with the bread. Because much like you can’t have a croissant sandwich on rye bread, you can’t have a Cuban sandwich on anything other than Cuban bread.
Is this sandwich fake? You bet.
Is this sandwich pricey? Totally.
Is it delicious and worth it? Probably.
It’s hard to say, since I have yet to go in and try B&W’s particular riff off this classic sandwich. But people I know and trust have already been there and they’ve been saying great things. I had wanted to go earlier this week, but I got sucked into the Savoy Taproom’s ribbon cutting ceremony. Which was interesting and all, but in my heart of hearts I would have preferred to skip it in lieu of a potentially delicious, if ridiculous and fake, vegan Cuban.