Eating the World

A Dish of "Old Clothes" from a Columbus-Claimed Caribbean Island

Today's culinary travelogue takes us into tall-tale land, at least for this dish's most unusual name.

The story goes that a very poor man whose family was going to his home for dinner could not buy enough food to feed them. So he went to his closet, gathered some old clothes, and infused them with his love. When he cooked the clothes, the man's love for his family turned them into a lovely beef stew. (Pity he wasn't around during my last yard sale.)

Originating in the Canary Islands, "old clothes" found its way to the Caribbean islands thanks to Spanish ships traveling between the Americas. It eventually found its way to a Caribbean island claimed by Christopher Columbus and went on to become one of the island nation's most popular dishes.

Curious? You can experience this centuries-old dish with a story tale past right here in the Valley -- and for under 10 bucks.

Ropa vieja, Spanish for "old clothes," is a dish of shredded beef in a tomato sauce popular throughout the Caribbean, especially in Cuba.

Which brings us to Sabor Cubano in Phoenix. This restaurant serving tasty Cuban comfort food on West Camelback Road serves its ropa vieja without the chickpeas and potatoes found in the original Canary Islands version. Using simple ingredients like shredded beef, onions, and peppers in a tomato sauce, the flavor mixes Creole and Latin flavors with meat that is amazingly succulent.

Enjoy ropa vieja alone or mix it with moros (rice and black beans cooked together) for a lunchtime journey to the Caribbean where the ticket price ($8.99) leaves enough leftovers in your wallet to buy something nice for yourself.

Maybe some new clothes?

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Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld