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 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.