Carrie Ferguson Weir

Dirty Pages Carrie Ferguson Weir

Carrie Ferguson Weir
Dish: Flan
Roots: Cuba / Miami / Nashville
Cooking in Nashville since 1991

Carrie Ferguson Weir’s mother came to Miami from Cuba at age 15, just a couple years before the Cuban Revolution. And though she raised Carrie around the Cuban culture in Florida, she didn’t necessarily teach her daughter to cook.

Carrie learned, instead, to make dishes like Picadillo and Arroz Con Pollo from Cuban Home Cooking, a spiral-bound cookbook her father picked up for her as a wedding gift. Of all the options in those pages, her go-to recipe for potlucks, dinner parties, and new friends is flan.

“I didn’t know how to make it as a kid, because you could buy it anywhere in Miami. Once I learned to make it, it became the dish that I shared.…When I think about my childhood and my identity and even now at nearly 50, it’s the smell, the texture, the comfort. An exciting outing for us was Burger King, because we always ate Cuban food. At Christmas, we always had roast pork. At Thanksgiving we might have had turkey, but it was stuffed with sausage and black beans. The turkey I make now for Thanksgiving is a guava-port-wine-glazed turkey. Those flavors are definitely a part of my spirit.”

Carrie had the opportunity to travel to Cuba a few times in the 1990s as a journalist.

“It was wonderful to finally understand and to see what it is my family has mourned for,” she says. “To understand why ‘things are good here, but the sky is bluer and the ocean more beautiful and the food and people.’ They lost a lot. So it offered great insight.”

I learned how to make [flan] in my 20s. I didn’t know how to make it as a kid, because you could buy it anywhere in Miami. Once I learned to make it, it became the dish that I shared.…When I think about my childhood and my identity and even now at nearly 50, it’s the smell, the texture, the comfort. An exciting outing for us was Burger King, because we always ate Cuban food. At Christmas, we always had roast pork. At Thanksgiving we might have had turkey, but it was stuffed with sausage and black beans. The turkey I make now for Thanksgiving is a guava-port wine glazed turkey. Those flavors are definitely a part of my spirit.
— Carrie Ferguson Weir

And though she says she doesn’t know the right answer for Cuba moving forward, she says she has both hope and concern for what might come. “It’s obviously in the headlines, and it’s popular and beautiful and romantic and exotic,” she says. “And I do think that everybody should go there. But what I would say to those who want to go is to look at it with a very critical and empathetic eye. What you see isn’t really the truth if you are in a very contained environment.”

She recommends trying to get to know the locals and spending time in their homes. “Trying to get truth and heart from people,” she says. “And they are a fun, interesting awesome people. And I hope for freedom, so we can travel back and forth and enjoy each other’s culture. They deserve that.”

As for her own journey, Carrie had been working for a newspaper in New Jersey when she decided Nashville—a place where she had family on her American side— would make a nice transition as she made her way back to Miami. Twenty-five years later she’s still here with Nashville less of a stop-over and more like home. During that time, she has certainly seen changes.

“I thought I was the only person of Hispanic descent in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1991,” she says. “I found out that wasn’t true, but it certainly felt that way. I used to stop people: ‘Hey, why do I hear you speak Spanish’ at the Bellevue mall or downtown. But when I wrote about going to Cuba for The Tennessean, I got a phone call. It was a Cuban guy who had lived here since the ’50s, and I got to meet a big group of Cuban people.”

When her father visits, he used to bring her Cuban goods like guava paste and a favorite type of black beans. But these days, it’s only the Cuban bread and pastries she can’t find as readily. And, of course, when she visits Miami, it’s the Cuban food she craves.

“When I go home, that’s what I want to eat,” she says. “It’s comfort food for sure.”

Tabitha