Nitza Villapol (1923–1998) was a chef, cookbook writer, and television host in Cuba. She has been called, by some, the Cuban Julia Child for her ability to communicate culinary arts to a popular audience. Born in New York to Cuban immigrants, she moved with her family to their native Cuba at the age of 9. She was quite skilled at tossing salad, winning a local competition as a teenager. She studied nutrition at the University of London during the early 1940s, and later said that this experience gave her insight into preparing food under wartime conditions. By the 1950s, Villapol was famous in Cuba for her standard cookbooks on Cuban cuisine, Cocina criolla (1954) and Cocina al minuto (1958). Both books were reprinted without her permission in the United States after the revolution and remain in print today. From 1951 to 1997 she had her own cooking show on Cuban television, one of the longest-running shows in television history. After 1959, she sided with the revolution and remained a fixture in Cuban popular culture throughout her life. During Cuba's "Special Period" of the early 1990s, she managed to demonstrate on her show how to prepare traditional Cuban recipes under the difficult circumstances of rationing, poverty and shortages. Though she came from a wealthy background, her father identified himself as a communist, and gave her a Russian first name in tribute to the Russian revolution (Santiago, 1998); following in his footsteps, Villapol found an accommodation with Cuban communism and succeeded in winning over her audience by cooking within the real limitations of actually existing socialism (Miller, 1996).
Miller, Tom. Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castro's Cuba.New York: Basic Books. 1996.
Santiago, Fabiola. "Nitza Villapol, 74, Cuban cooking advisor" (obituary), The Miami Herald, October 21, 1998. Online version
Bianchi Ross, Ciro. "Nitza Villapol, La mujer que escribía de cocina." La Jiribilla, 2002.
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