Cuban cuisine on minds of Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) on Wednesday displayed a keen understanding of one of the fundamental principles of Capitol Hill events: If you feed them, they will come. 

Ros-Lehtinen was a co-host of the 14th annual “Cuba Day on the Hill,” a movie screening in the Rayburn House Office Building that might have had far fewer attendees were it not for the delicious Cuban lunch that was served.

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“Causes are important,” Ros-Lehtinen told ITK, “but food is essential!” 

When Ros-Lehtinen noticed that no one was eating during the brief introductory film screening, the congresswoman wedged her way into the packed room and proceeded to open up the caterer’s chafing dishes and begin dishing up pollo con arroz and fried plantains for the seated guests. 

The lawmaker continued to serve up plates until it was time for her remarks. “I love pollo con arroz,” she said, pointing to the classic rice, chicken, olive and pepper dish she was serving. “But my favorite Cuban food is lechon asado. The places in D.C. that have it best are the Banana Cafe and Lauriol Plaza.” 

But according to another Cuban-American lawmaker, Ros-Lehtinen is too kind to the D.C. food establishment. 

“My favorite place for Cuban food in D.C.?” mused Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), in between Spanish-language interviews. “How do I put this kindly ... I’d have to say that my favorite spot is Reagan National Airport, and from there, home to Florida for Cuban food.”

Both Ros-Lehtinen and Diaz-Balart strongly oppose easing U.S. travel restrictions to the island nation, so it’s unlikely either of them will have Cuban food in Cuba anytime soon.

In the meantime, can’t the congressman make some of his own Cuban food at home while he’s in Washington? “No way,” Diaz-Balart laughed. “The best thing I can make is a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich.”