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  • Publication
    Ajiaco, Rum and Coffee: Food and Identity in Leonardo Padura's Detective Fiction
    (McFarland, 2018-04-10)
    This chapter analyses the representation of food, cooking and its related convivial aspects in the detective novels written by the Cuban author Leonardo Padura. These novels inscribe themselves into a long tradition of detective novels which consider the description of food and meals as one of their distinctive features (such as the ones written by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán and Andrea Cammilleri, just to name a few). I argue that in Padura's novels the mention of food and cooking performs many different functions within the text. First of all food complement the social backdrop of the story and set the Cuban character of the novel, bringing in the elements of syncretism, mestizaje and hybridity which are essential to fully understand Cuban identity. The author always presents classical dishes of the Cuban tradition, recovering the cultural roots of its characters and of his nation. However in Padura's novel cooking and food are also an important indicator of the specific historical moment in which the story is set and they provide important elements to understand the social situation of the time. References to cooking and food are used here to describe the food shortage affecting the island, as a consequence of the US embargo, and to denounce the hidden or semi-hidden presence of the black market economy in Cuba. Secondly food contributes strongly to the characterization of the protagonist of Padura's novels: the detective Mario Conde. In this case food, is used to describe the personal and psychological world of the protagonist and his affective sphere. Finally the convivial aspect of food allows Padura to represent the emotional bond between his characters and to trace the profile of a specific generation of Cubans born just before the Revolution and educated in the Revolutionary ideology. Food provides, thus, the opportunity to bridge the national tradition and memory with a specific generational experience and identity.