About Cocina Criolla Blog

About Me

My name is David Alfonso. I am a fist generation Cuban-American, born and raised in Miami. I am currently a high school mathematics teacher. I have been wanting to improve my cooking skills, learn better Spanish, and get more in touch with my culture through it's food. Hence my idea to create this Julie & Julia inspired blog, to both chronologize my journey learning to cook and learn about Cuban history through food.

About Nitza Villapol

Nitza Villapol was a Cuban celebrity chef who gained popularity in the 1950s. She reach fame after the start of her cooking show in 1948, and her cookbooks. Many call her the Cuban Julia Child.

She ended up siding with the revolution. She even re-wrote "Cocina al Minuto" in the 80s with innovate recipes to accommodate food shortages in the country. Many Cubans who escaped were disappointed in her decision to support the communist regime, but her traditional recipes live on. In my personal opinion, I take her as a case of separating the art from the artist.

About "Cocina Criolla" and "Cocina al Minuto"

"Cocina Criolla" and "Cocina al Minuto" by Nitza Villapol are both staple cookbook owned by many Cuban families. Both books are nearly identical, sharing majority of the same exact recipes. I believe Cocina al Minuto contains more recipes, while Cocina Criolla selects the most popular. These books mainly include traditional Cuban recipes, but they are also international cookbooks, including recipes for Spanish, French, and other cultural dishes. The cookbooks were typically given as wedding gifts. They are no longer in print, therefore they are very difficult to find nowadays and can run high prices on sites like Amazon and eBay. The translated books are even rarer.

The cookbooks are very much of their time, written specifically for housewives. The recipes are very stripped down, as women were expected to know basic cooking skills, so she rarely went into detail. In some of the recipes, she also includes name brands. However, Nitza does a pretty good job of offering suggestions and variations of each dish.

Goals for Cocina Criolla Blog

There are plenty of very decent Cuban restaurants, providing a fun experience and good food. But nothing beats a home cooked meal from your family! Cuban food is, for the most part, pretty basic, but very filling and homey.

I am lucky that my family has both cookbooks, albeit in terrible condition. I want to digitally store all the recipes in one place, making them easily accessible to everybody so that they are not forgotten. My goal for this blog is to translate all the recipes and cook them, chronicling the process in pictures and easy to follow directions. I also include my personal notes and comments, sharing tips and tricks to help cut corners and customize your own version of these recipes. Many of these tips will come from experience, as well as from my own family and others. Comments are open, so feel free to share any of your own tips!

There are more than 500 recipes, so this is going to be a long processes. I plan to make about 3-4 recipes a month, and I will blog my progress on both this site and Instagram.
Please experiment yourself and add your own twists! Share pictures on Instagram and make sure to hashtag #cocinacriollaproject! Reach out if you have any questions, suggestions, requests, or comments.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. Have fun!

David Alfonso