¡Viva Havana! Brookgreen Gardens Annual Fundraiser
Brookgreen Gardens is known for its magnificent gardens, spectacular statues, and overall grandeur. Throughout the year, Brookgreen holds events including Nights of a Thousand Candles during the Christmas season and the Summer Lights Festival from May – August. In May, Friends of Brookgreen Gardens hold their annual fundraiser. This year the theme was ¡Viva Havana! and the entire night embodied the old world feel of Havana, Cuba.
Brightly colored table cloths, hanging lanterns, old 1950s Chevrolet, Ford, Buick, and Chrysler cars made it look as if you were in old Havana and with the dress code being “Cuban casual,” it felt that way as well. Cuban cigars were readily available and a comfortable seat could be found in the chaise lounges.
What really encompassed the Havana feel was the food. We served all Cuban-inspired recipes including Ropa Vieja, a festively dressed whole roasted pig, and tostones, or plantains.
Ropa Vieja is the national dish of Cuba and one with a particularly neat history. The legend goes that a penniless old man once shredded and cooked his own clothes to feed his family and as they cooked, he prayed over the bubbling concoction and a miracle occurred. The mixture turned into a tasty, rich meat stew. With the translation of Ropa Vieja being “old clothes,” it’s not hard to see how this legend could be true!
Roasting a whole pig is a common tradition Cubans practice especially on Christmas Eve or when there is a large family gathering so it was only appropriate we roast a whole pig for the benefit! We dressed him up with brightly colored flowers, fruit, and a fedora, true Cuban-style.
Plantains are practically the second national dish of Cuba! In Cuba, you are not a true Cuban national until you are aplatanado, or until you have been “plantainized.” Because plantains are starchy, they are versatile and are used in many different Cuban recipes. The most common use of plantains is slicing them and deep frying them and we used this approach when preparing plantains for the Viva Havana benefit!
It was an absolute pleasure to work with Brookgreen Gardens for this event and celebrate the beautifully rich history of Havana, Cuba!