“The Cuban Sandwich” Wins Gold at Florida Book Awards

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The Cuban Sandwich: A History in Layers, lead authored by USF Libraries’ Andy Huse, has been selected as the Gold medal winner in the 2022 Florida Book Awards Cooking category. The Florida Book Awards exists to recognize, honor, and celebrate the best literature by Florida authors or about Florida published each year.

Huse is the Curator of Florida Studies at USF Libraries and books include The Columbia Restaurant and From Saloons to Steak Houses: A History of Tampa, both published by the University Press of Florida.

“Just days after beginning the initial lockdowns in March 2020, University Press of Florida greenlit the Cuban sandwich book project.  What may have been a difficult situation seemed ideal for incubating ideas and immersing myself in the subject,” says Huse.  Regular video meetings with co-authors Bárbara C. Cruz, University of South Florida Professor of Social Science Education, and Jeff Houck, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist and vice president of marketing for the 1905 Family of Restaurants, were essential in crafting the complicated story behind this iconic sandwich.

cuban sandwich Florida book awards

An overview from the authors:
“Like all great food stories, the history of the Cuban Sandwich is a story of people and their migration toward freedom and prosperity and away from war and political oppression. This is reflected in the rich history of the sandwich that started as the mixto in Cuba before jumping the Florida straits for the United States. Beyond that, each ingredient has a story of its own to tell about the creation of the beloved Cuban Sandwich we know today. There was a history waiting to be explored, one which in its place of origin was obscured by the veil of politics.

As authors, the Cuban sandwich has long been an object of fascination and reverence for us, not only for how it tastes but for the people and journeys it represents. As Florida residents, we tired of the old hometown debates between Miami, Tampa, and Key West that dominated discussions for generations about the sandwich’s history. To change the conversation, we placed Cuba, Cubans and the diaspora into the center of the sandwich story instead of the long-held U.S.-based approach.

Our broad research approach aimed to be more inclusive among Cubans as well. Through the circumstances of emigration and exile, early generations of Cubans and their sandwiches had effectively been excluded from history. The inequality inherent in Cuban politics and exile are also addressed, as well as the role of the United States in exacerbating them. The history of Cuba and its troubled relationship with the United States provide a broad context in relation to the sandwich’s story, including class, race, empire, exile, and more.

Our profiles of contemporary sandwich mavens draw upon an array of artisans, influencers, and professionals, adding their own voices to the mix. When questions arose about certain details, we drew on the cubanidad of coauthor Dr. Barbara Cruz and many trusted consultants, including her family and friends.

Our biggest regret is that politics and pandemics prevented us from including more voices and sources from the island itself.”

Our heartiest congratulations go out to all of the authors! Now…time for a Cuban sandwich….

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