Does any sandwich fill the soul with joy quite like a Cuban sandwich? Probably not. While most people will enjoy the tasty treat on a semi-frequent basis, Cuban Sandwich Day is the perfect time for hungry participants to show the humble yet heroic creation the love and attention it deserves – and there’s a lot of reasons to love it.
The Cuban sandwich is truly one of those magical foods that can be enjoyed by anyone (dietary needs aside) at anytime. Whether it’s a budget-friendly lunchtime meal for laborers or an evening treat for a business owner doesn’t matter, there’s never a bad time to enjoy the sandwich. However, there is a best time to appreciate it, and that’s Cuban Sandwich Day.
Want to know more? Let’s tuck in.
History of Cuban Sandwich Day
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.
History of Cuban Sandwich Day
The Cuban sandwich itself has a rich history that dates back to the 19th century, but the beautifully brilliant sandwich continues to witness evolution in many different forms. Cuban Sandwich Day is a far more contemporary idea that was borne from online interactions. In fact, somewhat incredibly, the event was actually launched in 2016 as a joke by Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times, who wanted to see how many news agencies would run with the story of a fictional food celebration.
It turns out that the answer was quite a lot. It’s not that shocking really given that the “prank” wasn’t actually funny. Still, fans of the sandwich from around the globe can thank Spata’s idea for what has quickly turned into a widely celebrated annual event. Very much like the sandwich itself, Cuban Sandwich Day has found its way to followers from around the globe and is on a trajectory to gain thousands of new fans each year.
Cuban Sandwich Day actually follows the success of another event (yes, great food deserves more than one dedication throughout the year) that has been held in Tampa every year since 2012: the Cuban Sandwich Festival. The food festival, which was organized by Victor Padilla and Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla, hosts a competition between local vendors and restaurants to name the Best Cuban Sandwich of the Year. In its inaugural event, the organizers also built the World’s Longest Cuban Sandwich.
A number of neighborhoods in the regions synonymous with Cuban sandwiches have subsequently held public celebrations while restaurants and cafes are naturally very quick to embrace the fun. However, thanks to online viral content, the annual honoring of the firm foodie’s favorite has reached many new audiences in its first half-a-decade.
5 FUN FACTS ABOUT CUBAN SANDWICH DAY
Hoax turned into a holiday
A writer from the Tampa Bay Times decided to perform an experiment to see if people would celebrate a holiday he made up in 2016. It has stuck ever since then.
The ‘true’ Cuban sandwich
Many say the true famous sandwich starts with Cuban bread. This includes 8-12 inches of loaf slices, lightly brushed with olive oil, cut in half horizontally.
Recreating the age-old delicacy
Putting aside Tampa and Miami for a moment, traditional Cuban bread baking is far from easy. Above all, a moist palmetto leaf on top of the dough before it’s baked must be present for the flavor.
“In a raft from Cuba”
Tampa famously renamed the Cuban sandwich “Historic Tampa Cuban Sandwich,”which prompted former Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado to say, “The Cuban sandwich came in a raft from Cuba.”
Just a sandwich
The Cuban sandwich is popular all the same in the US and Cuba, except in Cuba, locals just ask for a sandwich.
NATIONAL CUBAN SANDWICH DAY DATES