National Cuban Sandwich Day
Also known as
Cuban Sandwich Day
annually on August 23rd (since 2016)
Christopher Spata in August 2016
Food & Drink
Christopher Spata of the Tampa Bay Times questioned the legitimacy of so many "National Days" while reporting on them. "As a writer who has often been tasked with posts and listicles about various food days," he said, "I'm fascinated with the whole machine behind them." "While reporting a story in last week's Tampa Bay Times Taste section on the topic of where they all come from," he went on to say, "I learned that a lot of them are simply made up." With this perspective, Spata cheekily fabricated a new food holiday, National Cuban Sandwich Day, in honor of Tampa's famous sandwich, the Cuban sandwich. He explained that he picked August 23 for the date "because it's National Sponge Cake Day, and who cares about that?"
Spata made a fake press release for the day. He said: "Hi, I just wanted to remind you that National Cuban Sandwich Day is coming up on August 23. National Cuban Sandwich Day is a day to celebrate the traditional pressed Cuban sandwich and its many varieties, which have spread from Tampa, Florida's Ybor City neighborhood to all corners of the world." Not using his real name, Spata sent an email of the press release to more than 1,200 food writers, as well as to about 100 restaurants that serve Cuban sandwiches. He also submitted the day to some of the larger calendar websites. Many news organizations reported on the day.
When the holiday took off, Spata told his editors what he had done, and they told him he had to tell everyone what he had done—that he was a reporter who had made up the day. Spata wrote back to everyone who had expressed interest in the holiday, but none of them were angry that he had made the day up. Maybe this is because when it comes down to it, when someone says a holiday exists, no matter who they are, it exists.
The Cuban sandwich, also known as the Cubano, is a variation of the ham and cheese sandwich. This hot pressed sandwich uses Cuban bread, sliced to 8 or 12 inches in length, then cut in half horizontally. The outside crust is often buttered or brushed with olive oil, and yellow mustard is spread on the inside. Sliced roast pork—sometimes marinated in mojo—glazed ham, Swiss cheese, and thinly sliced dill pickles are layered on the mustard. Genoa salami is sometimes added too. The sandwich is then pressed on a sandwich press. It can be served hot or cold.
It is not known precisely when the Cuban sandwich was created. A similar ham and cheese sandwich was being eaten by the workers of Cuba's sugar mills and cigar factories in the 1860s or 1870s. Cuban sandwiches may have been eaten by Cuban immigrants in Key West at about the same time. There was easy movement between Cuba and Florida at the time, and many Cubans left the island to flee Spanish rule, and then because of economic depressions. Cuban cigar manufacturers came to Key West too. After Vincente Martinez Ybor's cigar factory was destroyed by a fire in 1886, he moved it from Key West to Tampa. The Tampa neighborhood of Ybor City then became the "Cigar Capital of the World," and Cuban, Spanish, and Italian workers helped grow the city. Naturally, Cuban sandwiches, named after the Cuban immigrants, were found in cigar workers' cafes in Tampa in the 1880s, first in Ybor City, then in West Tampa. The Italians of Tampa are credited with adding Genoa salami to the sandwich (the meat is not put on it in Miami or elsewhere).
Cuban sandwiches continued to be popular in Tampa, as well as in Miami, for years to come. They then spread to other Cuban exile communities and were prevalent around the United States by the 1970s. A healthy sandwich rivalry remains between Tampa and Miami today. Tampa designated the Cuban as the city's "signature sandwich" in 2012. But the Cuban sandwich is the signature sandwich everywhere today because it's National Cuban Sandwich Day!
How to Observe National Cuban Sandwich Day
Some ways to take part in the day are to:
- Make and enjoy a Cuban sandwich.
- Look for Cuban sandwich specials at sandwich shops.
- Share photos of your Cuban sandwich on social media along with the hashtag #NationalCubanSandwichDay.
- Follow the National Cuban Sandwich Day Facebook page.
- Have a Cuban sandwich at one of the best places around the world to have one. The most appropriate state to have one in is Florida. In the Tampa area, try one at La Segunda Bakery, the Columbia Restaurant, the West Tampa Sandwich Shop, La Teresita, or the Silver Ring Cafe. If you are in the Miami area, try Sanguich de Miami or Tinta y Café. Frita's Cuban Burgers and Ana's Cuban Café are two favorite stops for Cuban sandwiches in the Key West area.
- Pick up a copy of The Cuban Sandwich: A History in Layers.
- Make plans to attend the next Cuban Sandwich Festival in Ybor City.