The Legend of the Cuban Sandwich…
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Eduardo Manrara

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_Today many countries and cities claim to be the location were the famous Cuban sandwich was created. After many years of debate, the answer to the origin was discovered by accident with the reading on a old 119 years personal diary, it is clearly is not Miami, or even Cuba itself. (This diary is part of a private collection since 1985).

_To know the origins of this culinary delight we have to go back in time to the spring of 1894, to the new town in Florida, better known as “Cigar City”. At the time Ybor City was a town in development with the production of hand made cigars, 8 years at the time, growing, and a mayor employer in the area.

_Cigar manufacturers at the time were looking for ways to maintain a continuos production, especially during the peak season. They encountered that for some reason, cigar workers were less productive after having their lunch break. So they start looking for answers to this issue.

   

 

 

 

 

 

_In the early summer of 1894, during a poker game break at the Cherokee Club, located at El Pasaje Hotel & Restaurant (NE corner 9th Avenue and 14th Street), the cigar makers lunch issue came as a theme of discussion by a group of cigar manufactures.

_This will be a piece of a bigger discussion the following week during a meeting. At this time they were looking for possible solutions, and what they realized is that the cigar workers lunch habits were to heavy meal and different dishes, that one hour after their lunch they were sluggish and lethargic. Therefore reducing their production quotas in the afternoon hours.

_At the moment was decided that an alternative was needed, to solve the lunch issue and maintained production goals. During the meeting and discussion a German entrepreneur that was present explain the he was not experimented with that situation with his workers and production. And he explained that the different cultures and diets make a difference at lunch habits. He explained that his workers bring fruits, cheese and a “Bavarian sandwich” for lunch. Which consist of three types of hams, Swiss cheese, slide of pickle and mustard in two slide of bread “Baguette”. This was an old sandwich then in Germany and consider a regular meal alternative, especially while working.

_After learning about this possible alternative, the question was how to convert this to the Cuban taste as an alternative for lunch. The concept was presented to a few Italian bakers that a few weeks later presented a prototype sandwich in a new version of the German to the consideration of the cigar manufacturers.

_This new version of the sandwich was presented in (late Spring 1894) the main office of the Vicente Martinez Ybor factory to Mr. Eduardo Manrara, senior vice-president and company partner.
One tray with 25 sandwiches was presented to Mr. Manrara, which requested at the time that two of the sandwiches were left there for him and Mr. Francisco Arango (factory general manager) to try. The other 23 sandwiches were taken to the first galley in the second floor, to be tried by selected cigar makers.

_This new sandwich version was made with one slide of roast pork, three types of hams, Swiss cheese, one slice of pickle and mustard in Italian bread.
The test was conducted for three consecutive days in all company departments, with 75 sandwiches that provided positive results. Showing that those who had the sandwich for lunch maintain their production levels, and those who had full meals were not as productive.

_The conclusion was that a company regulation (July 1894) was placed an enforced which established that the cigar workers must have a sandwich for lunch to keep working or small meal portions at home with proper rest. Eventually this rule was applied to most cigar factories and many other businesses.
_The new lunch concept was adopted in Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Key West and Havana, Cuba, where the sandwich acquired the name. At first used to be called the “brick” due to the shape and size.
In some other countries they called a pork sandwich.
_So we can call Ybor City the birth place of the Cuban sandwich and 1894 his birthday year. A German sandwich that was modified by Italian bakers for Cuban cigarmakers consumption as an alternative lunch.

Ingredients

_The traditional modern Cuban sandwich starts with Cuban bread. The loaf is sliced into lengths of 8-12 inches (20–30 cm), lightly buttered or brushed with olive oil on the crust, and cut in half horizontally. A coat of yellow mustard is spread on the bread. Then roast pork, glazed ham, Swiss cheese, and thinly sliced dill pickers are added in layers. Sometimes the pork is marinated in mojo and slow roasted.

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_Note: The information presented above comes from documentation submitted for study as part of a research for a private collector. As part of the documents was a diary owned by Eduardo Manarara, and in the entry dated entry Monday May,14, 1894 describes in detail the creation of what would be the Cuban sandwich.

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

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Photos: Private Collection - Historian Researcher - W. Reyes, Ph.D.

Documents: Private Collection & University of Florida

 

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11 - 07 - 2015