Tostones 101 or How My American Boyfriend is Becoming a Cubanaso

By Maria de los Angeles

Well-traveled and with a highly sophisticated palette, my boyfriend has sampled exotic culinary delicacies the world over, but is only now learning about Cuban food.

I love el hombre as is, but ever since he had the first bite of a tostón, I’ve been noticing some changes. That twice-fried plantain, smashed flat to look like a big round cracker, has been working its homey magic on my fledgling Cubanaso. Actually, he would be a Jewbanaso, because he’s a Jewish New York transplant. And you know if there’s one thing Jews and Cubans have in common, it’s a healthy appetite for good food.

Served hot and fresh, with a little salt, a good tostón is crispy on the outside but creamy on the inside. Adventurous Cubans may squeeze a lime on their tostones or dip them in a simple mojo – minced garlic lightly fried in oil.

Our first tostón tasting took place in the Redlands, Miami’s agricultural zone, on a blustery December day. We were hungry and stopped at a random Cuban restaurant that was as far from Little Havana in quality as in distance. He liked the tostones, but I had to admit it was a very disappointing introduction to the tostón; these tostones were cold and rubbery. They were probably from the frozen food section at el Publí (Publix), which aren’t bad, but work best served really fresh from the frying pan and probably for those last minute apuros when you’ve got to feed dinner guests but don’t want the hassles of peeling and mashing plantains.

We would have to go on a proper Cuban culinary tour and that we did – fast forward a couple of weeks to our first lunch on Calle Ocho, where he had his first taste of real Cuban food at El Exquisito: vaca frita, maduros, moros y cristianos and of course, tostones. The tostones were just right – piping hot, crispy outside and creamy inside. He was in love. I was getting jealous. Not of him loving the tostones, mind you, but of the enormous portion of fried shredded beef and onions, fried sweet ripe plantains, black beans mixed with white rice on the plate he thoroughly enjoyed. I had ordered a humble Cuban sandwich.

We shared the tostones, though. Love is about compartiendo, right?

We followed this big Cubanaso lunch with a couple of cortaditos at la ventanita – the window facing the street where all the Cubanasos gather to sip the sweet fuel and talk. A caffeine lover, my hombre was sold. We then stepped across the street, where he enjoyed a smoke at Padilla Cigars. Had he been wearing a guayabera and talking with his hands, I would say the transformation would’ve been nearly complete!

But not so fast … a couple of weeks later he told me how he was really craving tostones and asked if we might go back to that place on Calle Ocho. I had heard about the tostones at Habana Vieja, another popular Cuban restaurant in Miami, so off we went. The tostones here are the stuff of legend — plantain goodness mashed so big, each tostón requires a stretched palm to grip.

The next day, while strolling by the Miami River, holding hands and just enjoying life, my hombre was humming the melody from a song by one of our favorite local afro Cuban funk bands, PALO! The song is about a guajiro who explores life in the big city and then decides he’d rather live in the country. “I don’t know what they’re singing about,” he told me. “But I love it, Maria.”

He rolled his rrrr’s on the “Maria.” Oh, how my heart feels, todo derretido just like a hot, fresh tostón, when he says my name that way.

I think the transformation is nearly complete, don’t you?

Maria de los Angeles is a Miami-based freelance wordsmith. She writes for Miami New Times, Miami Beach 411, her own blog Sex and the Beach and a variety of other outlets. Her favorite topics are travel, social media, tech, humor, sex and of course food and culture — not necessarily in that order. Learn more at Wily Wordsmith.

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By Contributor on February 18, 2010 · Posted in featured, headline, the habla habla

10 Comments | Post Comment

Marta says:

Marrrria =D,

I thoroughly love this story. I like this guy already. Not just because he loves tostones, but because he loves you AND Cuban food. I vote he’s totally a keeper.

Besos,
Marta

Posted on February 18th, 2010

Yoli says:

Marabilloso!!! No hay nada como un Jubanaso! I swear they are so much like us it is scary. What a cute post Maria. Now I am hungry for tostones!

Posted on February 18th, 2010

Maria de los Angeles says:

Gracias, Marta and Yoli! I’ve had so much fun “rediscovering” Cuban food and culture through his eyes.

Abrazos!

Posted on February 18th, 2010

Carrie says:

Maria, my American husband turned Cubanaso via Bustelo! And, I think he continues to love me for my flan…
Enjoy the new love and thank you for sharing your story with the Tiki Tiki…

Posted on February 19th, 2010

Melanie (ModernMami) says:

Wow! I think I’m celosa. I love that he is embracing your culture and in turn…you! And if he can roll his Rs, then he’s definitely a keeper. ;)

Posted on February 20th, 2010

Silvia says:

Now, I’m hungry!! I wish I know how to make tostones, I’m mexican and we don’t eat them often, but I love them.

My gringo husband is more mexican than I, sometimes LOL he can roll the R’s I can’t!!!!

Posted on February 20th, 2010

Ana Lilian says:

I never knew the way to a man’s heart was through a Tostón..go figure!
But, then again, I don´t think I´ve ever had one as delicious as you describe. Se me hizo agua la boca leyendo esto..and I had a smile on my face the whole time.

Posted on February 20th, 2010

Sra. López says:

This story made my stomach hungry and my heart happy :)

Posted on February 22nd, 2010

Ms. Latina says:

Ayeee mija who can deny the sabor of a tostón – puro goodness!

So glad he was able to taste an authentic tostón. My own gringitos may not eat all Spanish food but they will never pass on these, with some mojo for added sabor.

Just thinking of it makes my mouth water!

Posted on February 26th, 2010

Stephanie says:

This is so great. And you know what, Jewbanasos really do exist! :) My Jewish family escaped from Poland to Cuba, set up shop, became full Cubanaso Jews over the decades (!), then moved to Miami and New York. Seriously, you would not be able to tell the dif between them and some Marielitos walking on the street in Miami, or, more likely, playing dominoes. :) Your Jewbanaso hombre is just joining el club!

And, in case it needs to be said AGAIN, we are all drooling now, thanks. :)

Posted on September 23rd, 2010