Mai Perso - Travel adventures

Cuban Cuisine & La Revolucion | June 1, 2012

Food, in my mind, is the main victim of the Cuban revolution. Some say the people, but I am not sure I agree. I used to think that democracy is the best form of government but in reality, democracy is a form of government that always questions itself and is very vulnerable. If you extract the brutality of totalitarian regimes out of their government, they can provide a suitable and stable state for a country otherwise in flux.
The people we met and who were willing to talk to us, thought that the days of crushing government forces in Cuba were gone. It’s far from being an open free country but most people do not live in fear, and to a great extent their relationship with the police on the street is not much different then what I can see in the US for example. Surely no different then in ex totalitarian countries like Germany or Italy.
Entrepreneurs are thriving and while standard of living is low in western terms, they all get good free education through university, good healthcare and have good life expectancy. Infrastructure is worn down due to their attempt to avoid foreign dependency, following the Soviet fall.
Everybody we met was friendly, open and helpful. They all got out of their way to help us. The gentleman who sold us the tickets at the bus station, remembered our destination from the previous day, and got out of his booth to show us the direction to our bus, when we arrived at the station this morning. People joke with each other on the street. You hear laughter in the store, on the bus, at the square. There is music everywhere. People aren’t rich but they do not seem to be less happy then people in the west. Certainly not more worried or stressed then people in the US.
Nobody however seems to fight for the Cuban cuisine. To be honest, it’s day three and we are still looking a good Cuban meal.
The lady at Emillio’s Casa, cooked dinner for us which was good but the only dish that may have been local was a lobster tail in tomato sauce.
There is plenty of lush land and people can have cheap access to produce. When compared to to Caribbean cuisine, Cuba’s looks like a soviet union massive communal kitchen. The only spices they use are Salt and Habanero chillies if you go to a local joint.
Local restaurants serve a handful of very basic food, primarily chicken and pork, with rice, beans and fried or mashed Palatines. Most higher end restaurants are owned by the government, resulting in a boring menu half of which is not available due to shortage of ingredients.
In the countryside in Peru, we had a pork stew with corn and a fresh Mint and onion salad on the side. It was simple and delightful. Cuba has all of these ingredients, including the Yerba Buena, a kind of mint, which they use in abundance in their Mojitos, but the uninspired cooks have no incentive to venture off or revive their original cuisine and use the ingredients creatively.
There are great Cuban artists. We have seen them here and back home. There are a couple of very talented Cuban ballet dancers in San Francisco and Emillio’s brother has painted art exhibits on the walls of the Casa Particular, that I would not mind having hang on the walls back home. On the way to Trinidad, we saw Mangos, Coco nuts and Pineapples in abundance. The fishermen on the promenade in Havana were getting Yellow Fin Tunas out of the water and the country is lush. There is no other explanation to the miserable state of Cuban cuisine, other then it has been the primary lasting victim of the Revolucion.
If we could get on the web, I would have spent some time exploring the roots of Cuban cuisine. I suspect that it used to be no different then Jamaican or any other Caribbean island and am going to try finding one before we get back on the plane off the island.

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