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Cuban sandwich war should cool down

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 00:04

Never before have two Florida cities been so divided by a sandwich.

In what has been dubbed the “Cuban Sandwich Crisis,” Tampa and Miami have split into rival camps over which city has the rightful claim to the Cuban sandwich.

Miami fired the opening salvo when the Miami Herald’s Fabiola Santiago caught wind of a Tampa City Council proposal to make the Cuban Tampa’s historic sandwich and penned a condescending opinion piece bashing Tampa’s version of the Cuban.

Undaunted, the city council staked its claim to the sandwich two days later and the Tampa Tribune fired back with an opinion piece titled “Chew on this, Miami.”

This absurd tale of two cities may drum up some friendly west coast vs. east coast competition, but neither city should take their lunch too seriously.

In Tampa, a traditional Cuban is served hot or cold on Cuban bread with yellow mustard, dill pickles, Swiss cheese, ham, pork and — most controversially — salami.

Miamians consider salami a sacrilege; apparently, three pig-based meats is one too many. Tampa natives say salami represents the historic influence of Italian and German immigrants, who worked alongside Cuban immigrants in Ybor City’s cigar factories, according to the Tribune.

Miami Mayor Thomas Regalado remarked that “salami is for pizza,” according to the Herald. Evidently, salami pizza is another one of Miami’s food idiosyncrasies those on the west end of the Tamiami Trail fail to understand.

Nevertheless, no one seems to mind that the “Cuban” sandwich contains “Swiss” cheese.

When it comes down to cold, hard facts, Tampa has the strongest claim to popularizing the Cuban in America. It was a staple of Ybor factory workers more than 100 years ago, according to the Herald, when Miami was nothing more than swamps and beaches.

However, in debates like these, facts rarely matter. Miami has become the uncontested Cuban-American capital of the world and it sure “feels” like they have some claim to the sandwich. Miami residents take the purist route by rejecting salami.

Neither city has shown signs of relinquishing the dish anytime soon. Last year, a Miami rotary club set out to create the world’s longest Cuban, and the Latin Times is planning a Cuban Sandwich Festival next month in Ybor.

A Herald poll tried to settle the issue by asking, “Which city owns the real Cuban sandwich?” After more than 7,000 votes, Tampa won with 57 percent.

Perhaps both cities could compromise and acknowledge Cuba as being ultimately responsible for the Cuban. However, according to the Herald, such a sandwich is now hard to come by in Cuba. Apparently, following the Cuban Revolution, the meat-heavy sandwich became too expensive to produce.

It seems the future of the dish lies in Florida’s hands. Maybe it’s time for the cities to set aside their differences and realize it’s just a sandwich we’re talking about here. If communism killed the Cuban in Cuba, then Floridians should embrace their culinary diversity and make the multi-faceted fare a symbol of American freedom.

Michael Hardcastle is a senior majoring in creative writing.

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