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Mastering the Art of Cuban Cooking with Christina Gomez-Pina

 
Christina Gomez-Pina knows a thing or two about Cuban food. In fact, she's on her way to knowing 629 things as she cooks her way through the classic Cuban cookbook Cocina al Minuto by Nitza Villapol, who hosted a Cuban TV show under that same name for 45 years. Gomez-Pina got the book as a gift and it sat on her shelf for nine lonely years. Then after reading the best selling Julie and Julia in which a home cook cooks her way through Julia Child's classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking and realizing that the Cuban cooking traditions she loved so much were slipping away from her, Gomez-Pina took the book off the shelf and started cooking. She's making her way through the book's 649 recipes and documenting it all on her blog La Cocina de Christina, one dinner at a time. Here Gomez-Pina talks about about why she started this project, what she's learned, and her biggest cooking disasters. 
 
Did you cook before this project? 
I did cook before this project, but my cooking sessions usually consisted of many prep bowls, utensils, and fanfare. I'd set up like if I were getting ready for a cooking show and by the time I was done, we'd have an entire dishwasher full - and that was before my husband and I had the kids. On any given cooking session, I'd probably be making some magazine recipe that I had never made before, and never would make again. 
 
Tell us a little bit about your project. Why did you start this?
I never really had that one special dish. My grandmothers each had a dish (one, croquetas, the other, carne frita), my best friend's mom had merenguitos, my great-grandmother had an amazing pimento cheese spread. The ladies (and some pretty sharp men) had their dishes. Once we had the kids, I realized I really wanted to have something my kids and friends would ask me to make for them.
 
Why did you choose Cocina al Minuto?
When I read Julie and Julia, I was inspired by the idea of teaching myself to cook by using a cookbook. For me, there was no question - Cocina al Minuto chose me. My mother in law gave me this book at my bridal shower. My grandmother had brought her copy when she left Cuba. Every Cubanita (or girl about to marry a Cubanito) gets this cookbook as a gift. 
 
Next, Gomez-Pina's best dish and cooking disaster...

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