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My favorite way to explore a culture is through the cuisine. It is one of the most interesting, and filling, ways to understand a culture's history as well as its role today. Cuba is no exception. A country that seemed blocked off from the world, at least the US, for decades, Cuba has a fascinating culinary history. And, despite the new restrictions on traveling to Cuba, a culinary tour with Access Culinary Trips is still permitted! Here is a a recap of my culinary trip to Cuba, which I originally wrote about in the Napa Valley Register. Despite new restrictions for Americans traveling to Cuba, it is still a top destination for tourists. And rightfully so. The largest country in the Caribbean, Cuba is a semitropical island with a coastline marked by bays, reefs, keys and islets as well as long stretches of lowlands and swamp. Half of the island is mountainous with the Sierra Masetra mountains to the east, the Trinidad mountains in the center and the Sierra de los Organos in the west.
When I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, Cuba was always off limits to me, somewhere I never thought I would be able to visit. But when restrictions were lifted in 2016, Cuba moved to the top of my list. I did not act on booking a trip right away, but as new restrictions came into place, I decided I could wait no longer. The good news is that is Cuba is still open to Americans and is a place worth visiting.
I just returned from my first trip to Cuba. Cuba has been on my bucket-list for years and it was time to finally book the trip before we are banned from going there again. I found a wonderful culinary trip organized by Access Trips. For eight days we stayed in people's houses, drove around in an old Chevy, met with farmers, chefs and artists, visited organic farms and fishing villages and ate in paladares (private restaurants). All the while, we drank daiquiris, a cocktail created in Cuba and hence the Please The Palate pick of the week. The daiquirí is named after a village near Santiago de Cuba. The drink was supposedly invented by an American in Cuba at the end of the 19th century. By the 1920s, it became known in Havana and the owner of Floridita bar put it on the menu. Then the blender arrived and crushed ice was added, as well as maraschino cherry liquor. Ultimately, the drink was made famous by Ernest Hemingway.