In This Review

The Versailles Restaurant Cookbook
The Versailles Restaurant Cookbook
By Ana Quincoces and Nicole Valls
University Press of Florida, 2014, 192 pp

To understand the influence of political strife on the recipes and ingredients in people’s ever-changing dining habits, academics now study “conflict cuisine.” Founded by Cuban immigrants in 1971 in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, the restaurant Versailles embodied conflict cuisine before the term became trendy. Like its namesake, Versailles is an elegant icon of an upended ancien régime, mixing nostalgia for a lost homeland with kitsch decor that recalls a style of 1950s Miami. For decades, Cuban Americans have gathered at the restaurant to plot their revenge against the man who stole their birthrights, Fidel Castro. No paladar (privately owned restaurant) in Cuba can match Versailles’ seating capacity of 400, as the Cuban government places a tight limit of 50 chairs on such establishments. Versailles is also an obligatory stop for politicians courting the Cuban American vote. Quincoces and Valls recognize that Cuban fare, rooted in Spanish traditions, is relatively simple, and the accessible recipes they offer cover all the basics: classic sofrito marinade (garlic, onion, tomato, bell peppers), ropa vieja (shredded flank steak), black beans and rice, a rich flan, and strong Cuban coffee. The light, informative text considers, among other things, the fiery debates over the true origins and proper contents of the Cuban sandwich, which typically includes some combination of roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard.