Dogs in Havana. I bet even the dog food is delicious.
I’ve never been a huge “bread” person. No one in my family was ever much of a cook; they certainly never spent hours kneading homemade loaves on a Sunday afternoon. (Sunday night was Gorton’s fish stick night, anyway.) I grew up in Jersey, eating PB&J on Wonder Bread that tasted like stale air and never experienced a really good loaf of bread in my childhood. By the time I was older I had been poisoned by way too many TV specials featuring claims that gluten and simple carbs were the cause of everything from constant explosive diarrhea to just being plain old butt ugly. I avoided bread like it was a loaf of herpes. Once I started cooking for myself and realized most of that information wasn’t exactly accurate, I still didn’t think having good bread was worth the time and effort it took to complete the science project that is baking.
Then I had Cuban bread.
Real Cuban bread. Not the Cuban bread you get at places like Subway, where it’s basically a baguette someone sat on for five minutes. The real thing. The kind you seem to only be able to get in Cuba itself, or apparently in certain parts of Florida if you know where to look. I spent a week of vacation eating sandwiches fashioned out of it, dipping it into my coffee, and sometimes just walking around stuffing it in my mouth like a proper American piglet while I was sightseeing. How could a piece of bread taste this delicious? I didn’t understand it. It was like no bread I had ever met before…smooth and rich tasting, with a crusty outside and a warm moist inside.
I decided when I returned home I would figure out how to make this bread, and then I could eat it all day, every day, until I could no longer fit out of my front door to buy more flour. Then I would Amazon Prime the ingredients directly to my house.
Got home, looked it up. Do you know what the secret ingredient is? I guarantee you don’t want to, but I’ll tell you anyway because I’m mean.
Damn it. Damn it to hell.
I know I’ve eaten lard before, but never on purpose. My grandparents are from Lancaster County in Pennsylvania and while they’re not Amish, they eat a lot of Amish food over that way, as it’s readily available fresh off the farm in the local supermarkets. Things like Shoofly pie, dumplings, fried cabbage…Amish people are not whipping them up with a can of Pam – they cook with lard. (Bonus Snapple fun fact: the filling in Oreo cookies used to be a combination of lard and sugar. I used to eat those things like they were a necessary nutrient.) However, these days the concept of lard is foreign to me. I didn’t think anyone even cooked with that anymore. I had never seen it in my travels at the supermarket. Did they even sell it anywhere, or would I have to take a trip to the boondocks in Pennsylvania… or the 1990s… to be reunited with my bread? Now I was pissed.
Turns out they do make it. It comes in a little jar with a pig on it, and is called “Berkshire Pork Lard,” which sounded slightly British to me. Everything British seems somehow more refined, so I almost bought it. But I couldn’t. It’s lard and it gave me the heebie-jeebies.
I’ve got a lot of creepy things in my search history but I never thought, “How to duplicate the taste of lard” would be one of them. Not that my search turned up anything. Damn you, Google – you can tell me exactly how to perform a DIY exorcism or knit a bicycle seat cover that looks like a vagina, but I can’t find any suggestions for non-lardy Cuban bread.
I’m going to figure this out if it kills me. Since my plans of stuffing my face with Cuban bread this evening have been foiled, I have a bit of free time to do some research.