Local, Nutritious & Delicious….Home cooking in Cuba!
The fashion these days, here in Britain, is for cooking and eating with an emphasis on “seasonal produce” and even better “locally sourced”! We are asked to appreciate the extra time and effort that obtaining these ingredients necessitates, and we seem to be more than willing to dig into our pockets and pay extra for this privilege!! It’s a big selling point! We will however, quite likely, accompany our meal with a good French or Italian wine and a Costa Rican coffee with a “fare trade” label, the pepper used to season will be imported and the Olive oil in the salad dressing will not be from a British olive grove! Well…these inconsistencies we allow, and we feel we have had a more healthy and nutritious meal that has contributed to our local economy.
How marvellous then to arrive in Cuban and find that the cuisine is 100% seasonal and 98% local produce! Oh the advantages of island life with a US trade embargo!! You can be certain that your food has come straight from the land and that pig you hear squealing over the wall is going to reappear on your plate as a succulent and delicious meal!
Obviously, living in a country where the season dictates your flavours means that dishes change with the available ingredients and menus likewise. Your holidays are for experiencing new flavours and we at encompass tours, aim to offer you the chance to eat the best and typical dishes of Cuba. The lovely ladies of the “casa particulars” take a great pride in being able to offer you their best and favourite dishes, and never has it been more true that “necessity is the mother of invention”. Recipes are passed down the family and any Cuban will tell you his Mamas cooking is the best!! Neighbours help out with ingredients and cooking utensils and food is the major preoccupation of most Cubans.
As a tourist you will be able to eat foods forbidden to local people!!!! Lobster and Beef are for the tourists and the government owns all the cows and keep a check on them!! Occasionally an unfortunate beast might get “hit by a train” and as food is in short supply, there will be no time wasted in dividing up the carcass among the local community. Fish can be hard to source, which will surely come as a surprise as most cities are a stone’s throw from the ocean. This is because no Cuban fishing fleet exists for fear of someone running away to Miami! People do however fish from the shore and go out in tiny “rowing boat” type vessels to catch some fish and earn a little extra money. Cubans get their food on the ration card that has existed since the liberation forces ousted Batista in the revolution of 1959. That covers their basic commodities per head of population, but 4 eggs a week do not go far, and last year the Casto regime announced that the rations were to be cut. Getting enough food can be a daily chore for a lot of inner city families.
These days Farmers markets are growing in popularity and your host families will be able to buy the extras ingredients needed to feed tourists. Tasty plantain, sweet potatoes, yucca, cassava, pumpkin, beans, an assortment of “greens”, coconut, garlic, sweet peppers and various herbs will make memorable dishes. Fruits such as oranges, lemons, bananas, pineapple, fruita bomba (papaya to us, but you can’t say that in Cuba!), melon, guava and lemons make delicious juices for your breakfasts.
By far the best cuisine in Cuba is to be found in the home and not in the restaurants whose menus are repetitive and boring and service…how can I describe it….erratic?. You might find the only dish available from the 20 or so listed on the menu, are the two containing ham, cheese and chicken! If you are a vegetarian or vegan eating in “casa” is really your only way to survive. Cubans like meat and don’t understand vegetarianism; many don’t eat vegetable at all as they can’t afford them!
A typical dish called “Ropa Vieja” is a stew of shredded meat onion and some sweet peppers with seasoning, and translates as “old clothes”. Rice is eaten daily and the most popular dishes are known as “Moros y Christianos” which could be interpreted as “blacks and whites” as it’s made with black beans, while “Congri” is made with red beans.
Eating in Cuba can be a challenge, but the results are worth waiting for! Join us on tour and taste the flavours of Cuba!
“A Cuban Sanpshot” 7 days tour
“Mi Cubita” 14 day tour