Liza Gershman: "Cuban Flavor: Exploring the Island's Unique Places, People, [...]" | Talks at Google
Day. I'm super excited to, welcome Liza. Gershman, to, Google welcome thank, you very much thank, you. It's. Your first time here with us it's, my first time here and I'm really honored to be I've always wanted to come to Google so I'm very excited, and honored that you've all taken time out of your really busy days to come be here and learn about Cuba, and eat, the amazing food that the team has prepared I'm really thankful to, everybody. On the Google staff and, also to my awesome publicist. On raiveer net to organize, this and then also Kirk Dai who is, my right hand on all my, projects, so thank, you guys so much for being here and for having me and it's, really is an honor to be at Google you're. The first stop on the book tour this. Is very exciting the book is official, today. So. Yes, it's it's Amazon, released it today officially, and my publisher sets out a blast so this, is really fun to have Google be the very first stop well a better place to start a fun adventure than Google yes exactly. Fantastic. Well so you're. Not technically. A, chef. Right. Right neither am i you're. A photographer so. Anybody who's seen the book it's all about these beautiful photos, so tell us a little bit about how that became. US. Career writing cookbooks sure. Actually, it's a bit of a long story I'm, a photographer and, a writer and, I'm a greeter, aren't we all great eaters amen, to that one, people. Always ask me this is my 12th cookbook, and people ask me how do you write cook focus when you don't cook and, the, simple answer is I am great at research, people, give, me their recipes, I'm very, curious and I love to eat just, because I don't spend time in the kitchen I save that for the experts, who. Won't burn things and ruin things but. I am great at eating I'm great at making reservations and. This, book is not just a cookbook it's really it's, a food book and it's something so, much different from a cookbook it is a connection. With Cuba it's about a place it's about people, it's interviews, with restaurant, owners and it's, recipes, from people, in their home kitchens, in, Cuba and people, in their restaurants, and friends. People who have become my dear friends over the last 13 years that I've been going to Cuba so it's that it's the story of the island, it talks, a little bit about the politics, of food food, is political, anywhere you are but in Cuba food is especially, particular. Particularly. Political. Yeah I thought it was a fascinating. Glimpse into kind of an opaque culture. From Malthus, so how did you start like going down to Cuba what was your first reason. And then question kept going back I did, keep going back and so, it's, one of the few places that I have, gone. Repetitively. I really, believe you know life is so short and there's so many places to see you need to keep experiencing. Exploring. But, Cuba, and I have a thing we are in love and. The. First time I went was 2003. And I went with global, exchange, it was an educational, exchange, tour and it was the only way to go when I went there were no, other tourists, there was my tour group and at, the moment in time that was it and we, had to stay with our guide there, were 13 of us he had a script, you know by the end of the week we, could very, much tell it was a script and he broke it a little bit and said like oh I'll, tell you but I might get in trouble and.
It, Was just a very different time in place then it really was. Right. Before, 2003. It was it, was many years before the, Cuban government, decided, that individuals, could own their own businesses, so, it was very much like the old ideology. The old way, of thinking in Cuba and I. Am, really grateful that I got to see that so even then just, my first moment off the airplane I I, felt, like I was home and I, don't, know you, know if you've had that experience where you've gotten somewhere other than your home and a really, you've, had such a strong, like emotional, connection, that it's, the sense and the sounds, and the visuals. And it just feels like this, is where I'm this is part of me already, you know it's like already built into my DNA somehow even though I as, far as now you know I'm not at all Cuban and. So, that was it I had this trip and I was really intrigued, and interested in. Anywhere. That you say like nobody's going I want my sign me up how do I get there you know so. For me and Cuba that's why I then I had just finished graduate school I have a master's degree in English and American literature and, I. Took a year to travel afterwards. Because I didn't know what I was doing with my masters I wasn't there to teach I was doing my clothes right I was there as like a personal, indulging. Moment. Where I wanted to talk about literature, in this really dorky way that nobody else wanted to and so I went to an art history major. You. Guys probably all understand - there charlie something that every single person in this room is an expert, at or really curious about that your general. Friends do not want to know about right so that was me in books and that was then me and Cuba and so, I, went. And I loved it and then I didn't go back for a long time I there wasn't an easy way to do it and I. Wanted. To make sure I went legally, and that. I was doing things, on the up and up and I was curious about so many places in the world so, I've been. Really fortunate and blessed to go to 51, countries and, that was so, yeah I'll, be impressed by that when I get to 100 until then it's to me it's nothing but I've, been really fortunate to travel a lot and so I didn't go to Cuba for a long time and then, I was, at a talk in New York many things in my life happened, really serendipitously. And all, the good things do I was, at a talk in New York I'd been invited to and the author was, speaking, about a book she had just done on Cuba demon ceiling-high.
Demons. My best friend from high school. She's. A Googler I love. The Google connection logo, so. I, was, at. A talk in New York and I didn't know the author was speaking about Cuba, and, she. Spoke about Cuba and I went up to her afterwards, and I said oh my gosh I've been to Cuba I love to going I would love to take you out to coffee and or, a drink and talk more and she said oh sure here's my contact information and. You know like most people she assumed I would never follow up but then the next day I was on her, phone on her phone like what I'm here when we go to lunch when we go to coffee so, do you we met and she said as it turns out I'm writing a book about Cuban, food and we need a food. Photographer and I said oh I've, done 11, cookbooks. Maybe I could photograph yours, and she said great the, publisher I'm working with is called skyhorse, and I said oh I've done eight cookbooks with skyhorse you know that's really a no-brainer for them. Well and so it's, serendipity serendipity. Right and I always I really, whether. I don't know if you believe in signs or not I'm kind, of superstitious, and when things are that in my face I'm gonna pay attention so even if you have just not coincidence. Whatever you want to call it I listen. So. She and I went and met with a publisher, and long story short she did, not work out for the project for the publisher ultimately and they said Liza we know you can write we, please just write this book and so I said, sure, but, I now. Have to go back and do all this research and, they, said ok we'll get on it right aw shucks, like. Exactly. So, that led, to a three-year. True. Love affair with the island and I, have. Been I've been going, last. I spent more nights in Cuba than I did in San Francisco, Wow. I have, incredible friendships, there I'm friends, with artists, and. Painters. Musicians. Writers. And, also, I'm friends with all these economists, and engineers, it's such a fascinating place like your, taxi driver in Cuba likely, used to be a chemical engineer or, likely. Used to be a physicist. And you. Know the person that's making your sandwich most, likely is an economist, and has a master's degree it's, just the way their culture is and. I'll explain all that in a minute but if somebody can review can remind me please - I'll talk about that but an. Average Cuban salary is $25. A month and, if you have a hike a month a month and if you have a high-paying, professional. Job it's about $45. If you work in the tourism industry yeah, exactly so if you're like the top surgeon, in Cuba, you're, well, if you're the very top surgeon in Cuba you're working on the Castros and you're. But. If you are guy. Number 15, you, are making $45. A month and that's, not enough -. To. Do what you need to be doing for living in a in a, comfortable way so. Then. You come and you get involved with tourism and if you're a driver you, can make $20. For a ride from point A to point B or you. Can make food, and you can at a restaurant a, normal. Tourism, restaurant, that or, just not a touristic place, but a restaurant, that somebody. In this room might go to a meal might be $25. $30. So, right there the, benefits are so high for Cubans, to be involved in the tourism industry and out. Of all the countries I've been to in the planet they are by far the. Most entrepreneurial. People I have ever met in my entire life, they are scrappy. And. Inventive. And they will make their like MacGyver they will make a car out of this, thing this thing and that thing and you. Know you have no idea how that works but suddenly it's a car and it's, also cool-looking. You know I sound like there's no choice there's no choice that way it's out of assess traditional, norms, are not gonna get you where you need to be they're not and people really, think out of the box in Cuba because the. Box doesn't work or it doesn't exist right so yeah. I was really interested in it you talk about food as really being like more than just food it's woven into their culture it's just part of every, aspect, of life their talk talked a little bit about about, that, so. I think we're, so fortunate and, particularly, all of us in this room i I'm assuming. Incorrectly. Most likely but you, know I can eat every day right, it might not always be, great. Danko but I can eat every single then you want to be with a batch can eat every, everyday that. You do more, than once a day and. I'm super lucky exactly. So anybody in Cuba who, grew up during the 90s or alive, during the 90s and went through this time period they called a special period and, the, special period was, the least special, period of Cuba like a branding, exercise, more than anything it sounds like yes, so. The special period was when the. USSR, at the time pulled out and Cuba.
Was Left with literally. No international, support, and they, were fending. For themselves and. Cuba. Is an island, so one would assume oh they're, eating fish all day they're growing vegetables, fruits. No big deal they can absolutely sustain, themselves but. It's just not woven into their culture that way and. Because. Of a, number of governmental, regulations. People. Are not allowed to fish because, they can't have boats people, are not allowed. To grow, their own produce unless, they live in the countryside you can only live in the country, if you were born in the countryside or, if. You don't have that opportunity to have been born in the countryside you, can purchase fruits and vegetables but, if you're a farmer you have to give a certain percentage, to the government and then you can maintain the rest of yourself and sell a very small portion well, when you take the. Vegetables from the farm in the countryside and you get on the highway to. Come to Havana where, the biggest population, is to sell the vegetables there's, probably, a roadblock there's. Probably some kind of checkpoint, and you. Will, something. Will happen so, a lot of the people in Havana are not getting the, amount of vegetables they need not only that but if you imagine a country that has the most chemical, free fertile, soil on the world and the. Most pristine, living. Reef on the world and you're. Not allowed to have a boat so you can't effectively fish for the reef it's not in your culture to swim. Interesting. Right because it's an island where people have, spent decades escaping. Right so. People don't learn just like Alcatraz it's a little bit like Alcatraz but. There okay so for every single thing I have to say that, is a. Concern. There. Are so, many, positives, the outweigh that concern sure is. Real challenge there are real challenges for Cuban, people and I could explain if we just talk about San Francisco right now I can tell you how I've seen it change in my lifetime and I can, you know there are no homeless people in Cuba there's no gun violence there's nobody who's addicted to drugs because they don't have drugs there, you don't have guns every, single person has an education, every single person on that Island can read there's no AIDS, very, little cases of STDs. It's, you know there are so many remarkable things and there are constraints, so, it's. A complicated place whenever I bring people to Cuba which I do all the time people. Always come with some kind of a preconceived, notion or, they want to is this right or wrong and I find that particularly my friends who are in their 50s or older come, down and they will, have an idea and they want an answer is this a good or bad place and it's not it's a complicated, place right, it's a complicated, place and. But. There's so many wonderful things so so food is changing, and food. Is I think in any culture a great way to really see what's happening, who, are they trading with where are they getting influences. From. How are they learning and expanding, what are they doing to be innovative, you, can really see that because the, thing that every single person on the planet does is, has. To eat we got a we got a. Great. Unifier right not everybody please music not everybody sing this not everybody can do math not everybody goes running but every single person has, to eat so you, can see so much about a culture in their food and the, food and Cuba has really changed, over the last few years with. The growth of tourism and. In. 2010. The Cuban government allowed Cubans to, for the first time in. Since you, know the embargo for the first time to open their own businesses, and part. Of if you're going to open your own business you, want to open it in the tourism sector right because that's the way you're going to make the most money so. The way to do that many people opened, up restaurants, in their own homes so the, palette ours initially, were and it was fun to go to them they were you know it was one room and, you'd. Go and you sit at the one table in the room and the mother or, the grandmother would cook for you and you would eat the meal and then you'd pay some money now, with, the growth of tourism Paulo, tours have become more like actual restaurants. In Havana. In particular, is getting some restaurants that are as high-end as things, you see in San Francisco, which is really. Tremendous. To see that change over the last five years exciting, yeah it's very exciting for people. There's. Just so much potential, and promise for, the Cuban people in that because more people are being employed outside, of, governmental jobs so they're being, able to have higher salaries, I was.
Really Interested in. The. Limited number of ingredients oh, yeah, that repeat, in the book yeah, obviously diverse. Li-like, expressed, but talk a little bit about why that is we're dealing with a small subset, of things so. Back. To what I was speaking about earlier is part of the. Complicated. Nature of, the island, is when, you have an embargo for so many years you're not getting seeds, from other other, populations, you're not trading with people and so, Cuba, in itself grows, very few things their. Soil is absolutely, wonderful and they basically grow, they, grow plantains, banana, is a lot of root vegetables. Pineapple, but they're not growing avocados. For example they're not growing heirloom tomatoes, they're not growing mushrooms they're. Not growing olives all, of the things that we kind of take for granted that we think the Californians, are all like no. No I've Akkad OS which is that for me as always. So. That's something when, I was there a few trips ago maybe, it was last year there was a group of German farmers who had been there and they were all in their late, 50s and early 60s and these, were a group of 10 men who had all when the wall came down they were responsible. For, seeding and supplying. All of, the, farming culture yeah. So, they came to Cuba to look and see if that was possible and one guy was the potato guy one by is the tomato guy right each person had their specialty, and they at, the end of the trip which is when I met them at the end of their trip they, said you know it's so complicated. It's muy complicado right it's so complicated, and frustrating that, and they've already been through that they've already been through their own food revolution, that they hang. From that background, to see exactly it's, pretty it's pretty complicated so, when people are coming with me and they ask what to pack I always say if you if you can't get it camping you probably can't get it in Cuba which is a great rule of thumb and it helps you really imagine like can I get deodorant when I'm camping no can. I get it you. Know is there a store where I can buy. Lemonade. No, is there, a place, where I can get. Jalapenos. No so. I always say if you can't get it camping you probably cannot buy it in Cuba so and also the government has they've, brokered deals with companies, for one product, rate so let's say you go into a grocery store the, shelves will be, sort. Of stocked, they'll. Have but, they have one brand, so they might have four, rows, of, this one brand of oil but, you know here we have in Mill, Valley how many of you have been to the kombucha aisle in Mill Valley, at. Whole Foods it's the whole wall and it's like I don't know 100 kinds of kombucha, right but that's not the way it is in Cuba you have one product for every single thing that you have and, luxury. If you go into the 5-star hotels which they're you know they're really not if I start to us but if you go into those hotels the tourists. Shops in the hotels are selling suave as the fancy shampoo and so. It's really we're, blessed in so many ways but, just our access. To products extends. You know extends to food also Cubans, are in a ration, system so. The Cuban government automatically. Just, if you're born you get an education you, get my you know health care you, get housing, it might not be the most ideal but you still get housing it's, a complicated. System of who do you know and how do you know them depending on the hierarchy of what you get. But. You're given a ration book and the ration book covers your, food for 20 days of the month and what.
It Covers, is not enough, for protein and it's not enough, for you. Know it's very minimal and basic but a lot of Cubans that's what they they, exist on and unless, you have this extra, job or you work in tourism or you're doing multiple thing you're running out an air B&B room in your house that's, what you're living on but. Everybody has some thing it's just not quite enough it's. Never quite enough so it's fascinating chef. Are you about ready to kick off our demo yeah, chef Kristi is gonna actually, prepare. Something delicious, for all of us ma'am what, are we making today oh hey. We're making a chicken, dish we're, making the mojo chicken. Yes all right well a little secret I'll share with you the first step of the Moho chicken involves the loudest, blender, on earth so we're gonna focus on chef for just let me do the blender can I just can, you raise your hand if you've been to Cuba I'd love to know who in the room has been to Cuba awesome, oh great, that's like more than I anticipated so, that's. It. Does not it's, very Cuban but it's the world of hurt right. Yeah yeah thank you but us, so. The question was in, Miami and on the East Coast there's so much great Cuban food and what are the differences and primarily, the difference is access to ingredients so Cuban, chefs in Cuba are so limited, on ingredients and if, somebody, like. Myself let's say I wanted to bring, sun-dried. Tomatoes, in a bag and give it to a chef friend that, chef friend if somebody from the government came into their restaurant and saw that they had sun-dried tomatoes on their menu or in a meal that person could go to jail so it's, not worth the risk for them so here's a story that, reminding me on the drive down here that you guys might want to hear about beef. Is totally. Prohibited. In, Cuba is is only reserved for tourists, if you kill a cow the, penalty is a lifetime, in jail in life, to have a lifetime in jail and if you murder somebody it's ten years so, a person, human person interesting, yes, so if you are caught with beef illegally. The, penalty is very high even if you haven't killed the cow so. I have a friend whose husband just spent four years in jail and got out this week thankfully, because, he, was driving on the highway and there. Was a man that he knew he, was really small so, everybody sort of knows everybody or, your friend of a friend of a friend it's like it's like Google it's like Google sure no it's much smaller it's eleven million people but it really I always say to people you, know Havana is the size of Union Square in the Tenderloin, and then the, neighboring that's, it that's where the highest, consulate. Concentration. Of a population is so if you're in Union Square you, might run into your front like raise your hand if you've ever been downtown and seen someone you know right we all right, so it's like that okay so he saw somebody new on the highway who, needed a ride everybody's. Always needing a ride because most Cubans don't own a car because, a car in Cuba a beat-up. Car could be fifteen thousand, dollars a new. Car from China could be two, hundred and fifty thousand. Dollars seventy, five thousand, dollars for something that's from, the 90s, you know so most Cubans don't own a car so this, man needed a ride and the, other man didn't, check in the bag because. Why I wouldn't, if you need a ride I would not say what's known about right so, the. Other man had be four pounds of beef in the bag and they were stopped at a checkpoint and. My. Friend's husband was. Told by the police well you're the driver you must have known what was going on you're going to prison so for four years he's been in prison and you just got out this week thankfully, so, whoa well. Treat, that steak with a little bit more respect right huh right do, you think chef's fire.
This Thing up, everybody, bear with us for one second I promise it'll be delicious and worth it oh. Come. On chef I thought I was gonna be like way louder there. What. Is a bathtub, pig and, why. Is that a good thing and not something that terrifies me great so during the special period in particular when, people had even less access, to food and people. Were really surviving, then on maybe a piece of bread in the morning and, a, glass, of water was sugar in it they, were eating terrible things like pizza. Dough. And then they would put condoms, on top of the dough and melt that in place of cheese it was a very dire, classic. It was an incredibly, the 90s that was an incredibly, dire time in Cuba where there were no resources, for, food and. Yet. Here it's an island they could fish they, would be you know but it's. It's very complicated right so, anyway there were no resources for food that the government was willing to allow the people to have and so. People would make. A trade with somebody and get a get, a piglet. And then they would bring it to their home because, it was illegal to do this and they would raise it in the bathtub and then they would slaughter it and then to, make money and have food to feed their family for the year they, would sell it off to their neighbors discreetly, and they would keep some for themselves so those are about two picks so, this was a common, practice but there's full. Of pigs yeah so, every. Cuba Cuban, has a workaround, for everything, right so, the fixes all right we're not allowed to eat, pork, but I need protein I'm, gonna go get a pig and raise it at my bathtub I mean Cubans. Are so genius this way everything has a workaround they have, a black market that the government just looks the other way about it, even has a website and it's called rebel eco and if, you need something you go to rebel eco and if, you, need to, let's say I'm a painter right now there, is an incredible.
Shortage, Of artistic, supplies, and there's no canvas anymore you, can't get white paint so all of my friends who are painters are, having. This extreme, freakout about not being able to make art so, naturally. When I come down I'm bringing, supplies but. They are making their inventive, so a friend of mine is using he, found an article that was about how the Egyptians. Made paint so he's been making paint, he's been making paint the way the Chinese are making paint, so I might not do that you know because, I'm a lazy American, not, that all Americans are lazy but I am probably not used to having what you need nice, and, little paint sorry I can't we're not probably give up and move on to another project but, Cubans, not going to give up they're very they have you know an, idea and they're sticking with the idea and making the idea happen it's just part of their culture so, that's, really a remarkable thing about their culture, amazing. Yeah absolutely it's. A huge inspiration for me to be there and see how. Inventive people are and, their determination for. Things and for change and, their, allegiance. Of family and friends and the social network that they have developed that, is community, based because when you don't have the Internet in your home and you don't have your phone and you need information the, only way to get it is to ask somebody and so, it's, a gossip society right is everything happens through word-of-mouth so if you have a question about something or you want, is. It going to rain today how do they know is there a meteorologist. They can get a hold of no but, when, I'm in Cuba sometimes I'll text somebody in America and say what's the weather forecast for, data and they're always wrong and then I asked my friend's mother in Cuba and she'll say oh it's. Raining in an hour you know they just know so, that's. Fantastic I, think yeah there's we could do with a little bit more I. Agree. I'm, a chef what you want to talk about a little bit what you're doing over here yeah, so I just um I tossed some, yams.
So. And. I, always, like to point out that a lot of recipes will say it put them in a bowl before, you toss them it's, no any reason to dirty a bowl just go ahead and toss them on the sheet pans dirty the sheet you're gonna dirty anyway I like your style okay so, I was like less dishes, so I'm, just a little bit of olive oil salt some. Seasoning, and we're gonna pop these in the oven and. Then, for the Moho. Dish. We're serving them with the gams but also with some peppers and onions so I'm just sauteing I'm, gonna put some and everybody here Christy okay, great you guys hear me. I'm. Gonna put some wine in here reduce it a little and, then we have um the chicken I made them sauce, I put it on to. Tiny. Old chicken, we've. Had one already marinating. So we're just gonna go ahead and put that in there pop it in the oven and let, it, go it smells amazing already, I'm excited. Just scooch. Us out of your way whenever Oh. Surprise. Surprise I can see the finished product in there already, TV. It's TV magic we'll pretend like we'll pretend it's okay um. So I also heard, is. Similar to lots of big cities there's like Little Italy look, like how is that possible within the tiny Union Square footprint of Havana that they've got these other culinary, influences coming. To life so the only sub. Neighborhood. They have that would be like that is they have a Chinatown, and, which. Surprised me the first time I absolutely, but. They had a huge Chinese, influence of. People. Coming from China to, build things and then there's been a big Italian influence, in the cuisine, you. Can always find pizza, or pasta on any menu pretty, much which is also surprising, but it's delicious and they. Have tomatoes they just don't have heirloom tomatoes so they have the right ingredients, for that cuisine I'm always telling them you've got the right ingredients for, tacos let's make some. Like. Let's have a parade about today well your. California. Girl should do we propagate it was around the world exactly. Does. Anybody have any questions while, we're waiting for all my magic to cut down. You. Think of Cuban food you think of all this spice and seasoning and these strong flavors but they don't have a lot of ingredients so are, we being influenced, by the like American, interpretation, of Cuban food or how do they really bring that to life sure, it's a little bit of both there.
Are Some dishes like the dish we're eating today the mollow sauce is really. Prolific in Cuban cuisine and, it's very flavorful very spicy, the, national, dish of Cuba is ropa, vieja and that, is the, most delicious. Shredded. Beef. If they can get it otherwise they use pork and that's, in a tomato sauce that's, really wonderful so, they do have some spices absolutely. A, lot, of what we think about is, an, American. Interpretation. Just like you know Mexican, food here if you go to, well, Hakka it's not the same right so yeah. Similar but they definitely the, culture is spicy, in a way it's not high in flavor Cubans. In general don't like hot temperature, dude they're, very resistant, to pepper they, don't understand, you know why would you put that on your food it's so hot they, don't have a lot of hot peppers and their cuisine but they do have, a lot, of rich garlic's. And onions and things like that so you get a lot of flavor from that yeah. Yeah. So if beef isn't available to regular people is there a big divergence between what tourists eat in Cuba and what Cubans eat in Cuba absolutely. 100%. Tourists. Have a much, richer and I talk about this a lot in my book about how you, know these recipes so. Many Cubans will never be able to experience, some of these dishes if. You work in tourism then, on occasion you have enough money or you know maybe you have a friend who works in a restaurant if you, work in a restaurant sometimes, you order it's, that there's a saying in Cuba about it where you. Order more than what you think you're gonna sell so you can give it to your staff and they can take it home yeah exactly. Exactly, so, lobster, for example is another thing that's forbidden to anybody who's not a, tourist. But if it's a restaurant, maybe the lobster, guy had, ten lobsters day, you know you're only selling two you might buy them all so everybody can eat which. Cubans, take care of each other very much which. Is another really remarkable, part of their culture and so, there is a huge difference and. It's. Changing, a little bit as people, you know as tourism dollars are coming people are getting more money and everyone. Has somebody in the family that works in tourism so it's trickled out and people are always working for their family and for their friends and supporting them the, traditional meal you might eat if you don't have access you definitely, eat a diet, a lot of beans and rice but it's mostly rice heavy with very few very. Few beans, and then eggs you'd have a lot of eggs a lot of bread and maybe some, chicken if you can get it that's. The most common and then very. Little vegetables, and fruit so. Yeah. Interesting. But, it's it's all in the book you.
Can Read in detail about it particularly, for if you read the introduction, that's where you can really learn about all the changes in food over the last few decades. Did you have a question over there, breasts. Okay so this is a fascinating, question and I want to hear it someone like can you talk a little bit about distribution, network knowing there's a lack of like road infrastructure, and maybe electricity, for refrigeration, and all that and then secondarily, how. Do those people who are running restaurants get their food, it's. A very complicated, situation. I, always. Have to be thoughtful. About what I say because I mindful. Of my, love, of Cuba and wanting to go there so I have to be very. Considerate. About how I phrase things. It. Is a place with a lot of complicated, rules that, are ever-changing. And, a complicated infrastructure. The roads are not the best and. Having. A car or a truck traveling from, a farm into the city. They. Just don't have the, equipment to do that really so the Trickle the, flow is limited, and. The. Supply is limited and. The. Restaurants, operate, through. The back black market almost. Entirely, yeah. So even though the travel industry is like approved, you, still have to go black market to get your angry government, run hotels and restaurants. Have. Very, terrible. Ingredients. Ah and. The. Service, is something -. I. Will. Say maybe not the best, that. Says I haven't been but I heard from someone yeah it was not nice I'm so restaurants, that are now, becoming more. Western. I guess you'd say or a higher end or I don't I don't know how we want to phrase that they. Are absolutely forced to use, the black market every, day all day and there's. Just a turn the other head but if you had dried cranberries, on your salad we can't overlook that right, but if you're getting Lobster well, we can overlook that that's, kind of the it's, a big don't-ask, don't-tell kind, of culture well I love many things about your book but food to me is a perfect inroad into any culture like you said it's the great unifier but I think that the, images, that you pair, with these recipes I think really do bring to life again. A place where fewer. Of us than normal, really have had access, to go, I mean it's fascinating and I love hearing your kind of inside scoop on really. What it's like and, how it's changing, and, absolutely. And it's also this, wonderful place, where you can be where, you are forced, to be completely. Disconnected. From the. Internet and from your cell phone and from all the other companies this, you know in the world that we do this with and people there are talking they're having conversations they're thinking about things they're discussing the things they're thinking about in a way that a lot of my friends have stopped doing frankly. And, sometimes. We'll get to Cuba and I'll think oh I haven't had a conversation with, you in two years where you just you know we're going to.
Now. We're stuck together for seven hours no. Distractions. Yeah so she's amazing and family is really important, people end up living with their families for much of their life it's, really unusual to. Be a Cuban and then go have your own apartment or your own house so, community is very strong and I think there's a lot of joy in that so what, I noticed, beyond. In. Once what I noticed beyond the remark ability of invention. And creation, in Cubans I also notice. I mean there's just a palpable sense of joy for, people who have such limited options, they're so, joyful. The culture is joyful and alive and vibrant and musical, and everybody. Dances, or sings or you're, required to spend two years in, art studying, and that was really important to Vidal and so, everybody, has to do that and I. Think that's a real benefit, you know to learn something, about an art really, brings joy to your life and you, can see that in their culture that's it's, incredible. The spirit people have and they're so resilient and, most. Families someone. Has left and so people. Have this internal, pain and struggle, but they are so positive about, everything. I have friends where three, of their siblings don't live in Cuba but, they just still have this zest and love for life that I find. Is, remarkable. And people, aren't self medicating, they're not taking prescription pills to go to sleep and they're not drinking too much I you know in a country if you if you make $25. A month and, a bottle of rum is seven you're probably not spending all of your money on that bottle of rum so, I've really never. Scene Q, I mean of course there have to be some drunk. Cubans, but I've, never sets, not part of the culture my friends have a drink and that's, it right and that's. Just part of that they don't understand, the concept of excess is not. This. Is a privilege yeah that's pretty it. Is so, there's a lot of joy in that culture despite. The. Lack of thing you know strange constraints, absolutely did, somebody over here have a question yeah I love. That question so how does having a camera change your relationship, there it's sometimes might give you access sometimes it might not like what does that been like I. Find, it there. Many times I don't use my camera on my last trip I didn't take any pictures I'm there so, often that now. I go to see my, last trip one of my friends it was her birthday another, friend had an art gallery opening so I went to see those things and you, know the only pictures I took around my cell phone of like hey we're here together at the selfies, so, sometimes, I'm bringing my camera and sometimes I'm not people, are very receptive to being photographed, I find. That cultural. Norms and countries really dictate that so some countries I go to and everybody wants to every. Single person once their picture taken by me and I'm like, you'll never see this are you sure you know when. I went to China every, person, near me wanted me to take their picture and wanted to be in my picture Guatemala. Nobody wanted their picture taken because in. Mayan culture they believe, that you're stealing their soul Cubans. Most Cubans, enjoy having their picture taken and then of, course there should be in exchange I come, from much, more privileged than they do and, so if I take someone's photo I'm, giving.
Them A meal or I'm giving them some, money or I'm bringing. Them something. I I, think that's really important, to me to always, be constantly. Giving back to everybody in Cuba so when I go down and for example I have clothes there I don't bring a suitcase anymore but, I bring, two, suitcases that are gigantic, and I check them because, I'm bringing gifts for all the people I know and then I bring extra gifts for other people that's toast I bring, guitar. Strings for musician friends I bring tattoo needles for a tattoo, friend I bring canvas and paint for another friend. My, lovely, housekeeper, that I'm always with I bring our new bras because you can't get them I bring her you know oceans and, I bring her earrings, and things she just loves that kind of stuff so it just depends on, who. I'm visiting at the time but I'm always bringing I'm, always bringing something because I'm a guest still, no matter what even though they all say I'm Cubano you know I'm a guest and I. Have I have, so much and I'm so grateful for what I have and I know that anything. That we. Can give to anyone there is more than they have so that's, beautiful, I love that um, chef. Yeah. I'm just gonna. This. Is this is what we've all been waiting for, oh my gosh oh, my gosh oh. My gosh. Yum. Yum, yum yum I. Mean. Beautiful. It's gorgeous, you. Guys are really lucky that, you get to eat like this every day. It's amazing yeah. It's. True you're. Gonna lie. Oh. What's. Your keeping friends think of the book so, the book um. It's. It was a two and a half year project, so they all you, know where's the book how's the book but it uh and I. Finally got to bring the book on my I got back from my last trip four days ago and I, finally got to bring the book on the last trip in Cubans. I they're, not accustomed to receiving gifts it's just not part of the culture right when you don't have you don't get so you give a you, give a gift to somebody and, they say oh thank you and you think oh I, guess you're not really excited and then a while, later you realize how excited, they are right but it's not always it's, not like the kid at Christmas unwrapping, the paper screaming, which is kind of the response of part. Of the culture yeah so, I also like that response yeah. But it's not so I would give I kept telling Kirk. I would give somebody in my book and they say oh thank, you and then they'd maybe go walk away or whatever maybe. It was a restaurant and I'd sit down and have a meal and then it'd get up to use the restroom and I'd, look over and then I would realize the entire, staff. Was out of the kitchen and they were looking, at every, page of the book and that was such an honor I mean that, was beautiful, that was that to me was really, worth, every. Moment, that I wanted to give up on this project and you know when you're writing a book there are a lot of times where you just wanna be done and over it and you're ready to say I quit but. I. People. Really, were, grateful and to see them genuinely, they. Were to get in front of me you know and I think that's what made it better they were doing it but it wasn't show her we like it's more genuine yeah yeah it was really every, single time it was incredible, so yeah, it was great people are really pleased and I put, so many friends in it I was gonna say I, love. It it's like a yearbook of my friends, right like then Rica this is my friend Enrique and he owns like aurita the most famous restaurant in Cuba and in the front we've got two of my drivers, and one of my friends. That's a guide and it's just it's. Like a yearbook of my Cuban, life basically and so, like these are my friends. And it's really fun you know and then my, friend with a privilege it's great my friend and his dog are in the back and it just yeah. And in the back of the book I have a suggested, itinerary, my favorite things to do I have, a section that's how to stock your pantry to, prepare all of these easy dishes, there's. A section spruce up your Spanish, just a couple fun words there's. A list of Cuba's top restaurants. Rev and bars and the addresses, of them see you guys there you go exactly and so. It's for it's not just a cookbook you know it's a lot of things it's really kind of a guide to Cuba and, they're. Always more than people who, register. Online on my website you'll. Get emailed. Some other tips about. Is it okay to it okay yeah you'll, get registered some other information.
About Cuba that's not in the book so that's fun too very cool so what. Are your favorite recipes from the book Oh ropa. Vieja, is my favorite, dish in Cuba it's the national dish of Cuba and it's, so flavorful, it's. A low simmer it's like a slow cooker recipe, basically, it's delicious, I love, rice, and beans I'm always gonna be a fan of that plantains. And, this chicken is good all the drink recipes, are amazing the, cocktails, obviously. It's a place that you, know it's lively rum let's, like have a cocktail, and, let's just, one day, be - yeah, yeah. So ropa vieja is primarily a beef dish so, so. Cubans, improvise, guys. That's the motto of Cuba improvised and so they'll use whatever they have and that's usually pork, pork, is the most easy protein, for a cumin to get so. A pork, will pop yes yeah in the berry recipes, for beef just because I know we're American, right and where's. The beef here right. Yeah. Anybody else questions. Yeah. Does, that does that food, change, on, different parts of the island that's, such a great question and so my favorite, part of the island is the, Orient and that is the area that is the countryside, and the. Food there comes its, farm-to-table, you, know in the most original authentic. Way from the table exists, in there. Are a lot of restaurants that you can go to their farms, and you eat they bring everything from, the farm so you're eating straight, out of the garden and I, would spend my whole life just in Vinnie Ellis if I could it's really if I had the internet I. Would. Live there permanently you're. At Google so we're, happy that you said yeah so it can you make this happen for me please. Here. In loon. Balloons over, here moving. Then, I. Know, that we're, getting some delicious bites plated up for you guys is there a couple of last questions, yeah. Favorite. Cuban restaurants, here, or in Cuba in the US oh yeah. My favorite Cuban restaurant, in San Francisco, is medianoche. It's down in the mission and they're. Partnering with me on a number of events coming up oh it's really fun yeah I love them the, food is fantastic they. Have a lot of integrity in their ingredients, and their recipes, it's, owned by two women, who. Are our peers I love to support women in their endeavors and it's really, fan they've been to Cuba they've spent time there and it's, such a cute place it's very pretty and I, love it so yeah medianoche, in the mission our.
Favorite, Stories from the home kitchens, gosh. So, sorry. Like so many so many so, many stories, and you. Know it's one of those places where, every. Time I go there's some wild story that happens. I'm. Trying. To think of something off the top of my head but it's just so nice to be invited in the summons home and people are so generous. Santeria. Is one, of the religions in Cuba and it's similar to voodoo if you're but it's it's it's, different anyway. If you are walking, by anywhere, and you hear drums you, are welcome to come in and be part of the Santeria, festivities, and, most. Of those involve cakes, and, many. Many many many cakes and you're really encouraged to participate and dance and sing and eat and you don't have to be a practitioner. Of Santeria, but, it's just part of their culture and it's expected, that they. Will invite in visitors and so that. Is a really neat way to be able to see inside of people's lives and homes and people, will shout down to you you know you'll hear drumming, and you'll be walking by in suburbs you'll be out in the balcony and they'll shout down and then they'll be saying come off come off come up and then you come up and suddenly you're in a room that is a quarter, of the size and there are 20 people that are dancing, and there's drumming, and there's like 40. Cakes on the, table and so, that is one of my favorite things about home-cooked. Cuban, food absolutely, it's pretty neat super, powerful I love that visual um, thank, you so much for coming thank you for having me everybody on behalf of Google thank you thank you guys. You. You.