Does any sandwich fill the soul with joy quite like a Cuban sandwich? Probably not. While most people will enjoy the tasty treat on a semi-frequent basis, National Cuban Sandwich Day is the perfect time for hungry participants to show the humble yet heroic creation the love and attention it deserves – and there’s a lot of reasons to love it.
The Cuban sandwich is truly one of those magical foods that can be enjoyed by anyone (dietary needs aside) at anytime. Whether it’s a budget-friendly lunchtime meal for laborers or an evening treat for a business owner doesn’t matter, there’s never a bad time to enjoy the sandwich. However, there is a best time to appreciate it, and that’s National Cuban Sandwich Day.
Want to know more? Let’s tuck in.
History of National Cuban Sandwich Day
National Cuban Sandwich Day is a day to celebrate the traditional pressed Cuban sandwich and its many variants, which have spread from Tampa, Florida’s Ybor City neighborhood to restaurant menus in all corners of the world.
The Cuban sandwich is a history lesson pressed between two pieces of bread. Perhaps no other food represents the United States’ history as a melting pot at the turn of the century better than the Cubano, which combines elements from three different immigrant groups that came together, surprisingly, in the deep south. Also, it’s delicious!
A traditional Cuban sandwich consists of ham, mojo pork, Genoa salami, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, and dill pickle slices on crispy-but-not-too-chewy Cuban bread, all heated in a press, though National Cuban Sandwich Day celebrates all variations.
Cuban sandwich fun fact
While an early cousin of the Cuban sandwich was born in Cuba proper, the Cuban sandwich as we know it today originated in Tampa, Florida’s cigar-producing neighborhood of Ybor City in the late 1800s (then known as Cigar City, the “cigar capital of the world”) and caught on by the early 1900s. It was popular among workers in the district’s many cigar factories.
While it’s called a “Cuban” sandwich after the Cuban immigrants who settled in early Ybor City and influenced the sandwich the most, the ingredients are also a nod to the southern Italian bricklayers and the German cigar workers who also immigrated there. Salami was added via the Italian bricklayers, who found that placing a hot brick on top of the sandwich for a few minutes pressed it flat and made it taste better. Mustard was a condiment and flavor preferred by the Germans.
It also didn’t spoil in the Florida heat. That’s why there’s no mayonnaise on a traditional Cuban sandwich–refrigeration was scarce in tropical Tampa in the early 20th century.
History of National Cuban Sandwich Day
The Cuban sandwich itself has a rich history that dates back to the 19th century, but the beautifully brilliant sandwich continues to witness evolution in many different forms. National Cuban Sandwich Day is a far more contemporary idea that was borne from online interactions. In fact, somewhat incredibly, the event was actually launched in 2016 as a joke by Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times, who wanted to see how many news agencies would run with the story of a fictional food celebration.
It turns out that the answer was quite a lot. It’s not that shocking really given that the “prank” wasn’t actually funny. Still, fans of the sandwich from around the globe can thank Spata’s idea for what has quickly turned into a widely celebrated annual event. Very much like the sandwich itself, National Cuban Sandwich Day has found its way to followers from around the globe and is on a trajectory to gain thousands of new fans each year.
National Cuban Sandwich Day actually follows the success of another event (yes, great food deserves more than one dedication throughout the year) that has been held in Tampa every year since 2012: the Cuban Sandwich Festival. The food festival, which was organized by Victor Padilla and Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla, hosts a competition between local vendors and restaurants to name the Best Cuban Sandwich of the Year. In its inaugural event, the organizers also built the World’s Longest Cuban Sandwich.
A number of neighborhoods in the regions synonymous with Cuban sandwiches have subsequently held public celebrations while restaurants and cafes are naturally very quick to embrace the fun. However, thanks to online viral content, the annual honoring of the firm foodie’s favorite has reached many new audiences in its first half-a-decade.
How to celebrate Cuban Sandwich Day
National Cuban Sandwich Day is focused primarily on the stunning simplicity and tremendous tastes of the wholesome food. Nobody participating in the day really needs to ask “how can I celebrate it?”, because the answer is obvious: eat a Cuban sandwich.
There’s no rules or regulations on when or how the sandwich should be eaten. However, participants that ordinarily enjoy this type of sandwich on a regular basis can take their enjoyment to the next level by investing in better ingredients. The beauty of a Cuban on a daily basis is that it tastes great even with budget ingredients and a quick assembly. However, premium meats and cheeses combined with a few extra minutes of preparation can truly unlock a new taste sensation.
For the perfect Cuban Sandwich, try:
- 1lb roast pork shoulder (boneless)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1tbsp ground cumin
- 1tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1/4tbsp dried red chili flakes
- 1 sliced medium onion
- 1 cup fresh OJ
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 long Cuban bread roll
- 3tbsp Dijon mustard
- 8 thin slices Swiss cheese
- 1 cup bread and butter pickles
- 8 thin slices deli ham
- A drizzle of olive oil
Cook this in the dutch oven for optimal results. Vegans, vegetarians, or dairy intolerant participants can look for alternative recipes. Meanwhile, the celebrations for German, Italian, Cuban, and American history and influences from the 19th century until the modern day can be enjoyed too. Ultimately, National Cuban Sandwich Day is an event that is best enjoyed with friends, family, and new acquaintances.
This could manifest itself by visiting a local public National Cuban Sandwich Day event, simply ordering the sandwich at a restaurant, or hosting a party at home or in the garden. Flags, bunting, face painting, and music from the different cultures associated with the sandwich are all great options.
There is no single right or wrong option, and it can be enjoyed for brunch, lunch, or tea. As long as the sandwich provides delicious tastes and warming comforts, National Cuban Sandwich Day can be considered an enormous success.