I've struggled to find the words to describe Cuba because flying from Miami to Havana with people carting XBoxes and flat screen TVs for relatives, well, that didn't add up. It didn't seem so much stuck in time as in a parallel world apart yet next to the one we live in. So, I started in the kitchen and cooked up my favorite food memories instead.
This Cuban Iced Chocolate Frappe is homage that afternoon in Old Havana -- that time it was blazing hot with no breeze to speak of and I was desperate for relief. I ducked under a colonnade for shade and started chatting with a 20-year old cab driver -- who would easily pass as Ralph Macchio’s brother -- and he asked me about the US while I asked about the cherry red classic car he had restored himself. Within minutes he convinced me that a seaside drive would make the heat that much more bearable and I hoped he was right.
So, I hopped in and we cruised the stunning, Instagram-worthy Malecon seawall and, once he discovered my love for food, he was adamant we try the Chocolate Museum. Really, museum is a bit of a misnomer as it’s more old school chocolate shop and cafe -- less history and more actual chocolate eating is what the place is about but that was more than fine by me.
Though I was in Havana in an old cafe with brocaded wood and lazy ceiling fans, it could've been a soda fountain straight out of 1950s Main Street USA. It's there I got served an iced chocolate drink that inspired this Cuban Iced Chocolate Frappe, which like so many things in Cuba was way more complex than initially seemed. Sipping that drink and sitting with my impromptu Ralph Macchio doppelganger date, I saw the real charm of Cuba being stuck in the past that was way more than jerry-rigged muscle cars -- it was a snapshot of innocence, something way before my time but relatable all the same.