A must have to go to the grocery store...
Ever since I can remember, every month you would go to buy your household groceries with "La Libreta" (ration book). The book has a list of the head of the household, how many people live in the house by age and whether they need a special diet or not because not everyone would get milk, powder milk or diet meat. Children in Cuba would get one liter of milk per child from 0-7 years old. After that, they would get cut off from the milk supply. Seniors with diabetes or any other medical problem may receive powder milk or red meat. Everyone would get 6 eggs per person a month, 6 pounds of rice per person, 4 ounces of red meat once a month per person, 20 ounces of beans per person, and 1 pound of oil or lard per household. It was very hard at times because many times there was not much at the store and the bodeguero would say, "no hay esto o lo otro" (there is no this or that).
The bodeguero would write on your "libreta" what the number of items sold to you to keep records of what you have purchased already, so you don't get it twice. Also, you must go with shopping bags for each item and a bottle for your oil because the store won't provide that for you. When I was a kid, the bodega used to have brown paper bags for each product, but at some point, they stop carrying it. My mom used to have different bags for each item: the rice bag, the beans bag, the fish bag and so on... You could also go to the "Agro-Mercado" (farmer's market) to buy fruits, vegetables, pork and other things not old at the bodega but that meant that you have to spend more money and many people could not afford it. In the countryside where I grew up, we didn't have an Agro-Mercado. I think that what saved us was that my grandpa used to grow some food in our backyard and that we had chicken, pigs, and goats. Not so much after we moved to the city and the special period hit Cuba during the 90s. That was extremely hard, and there wasn't much to eat.
What surprised me last year when I went to visit my mom was when my aunt and I went to La Bodega in Havana and how dirty and empty it was. When he asked for the bottle to pour the oil into it, he pulled out a filthy old bottle to measure how much he was going to give us, and I said to my aunt: "Are you sure you want to use that oil to cook with?" I went to the shop and bought a bottle of olive oil with dollars because I didn't want my family to use the one given to my aunt. I hope this changes soon and that people get better options moving forward.
Need some inspiration to Travel to Cuba?
How about my collection of Cuba photographs showing at The Loading Dock cafe. I have been taking photos of Cuba for a very long time and last year I had the opportunity to open my first exhibit with the help of my dearest friend and artist Jorge Yances who encouraged me to put my work out there to the world. This is the third location where it has been showcased and people are loving the exhibit. There are only two days left, today and tomorrow for you to go check it out because I have to take it down on Wednesday, Oct 31st so another artist will have the opportunity to showcase their art. Cuba is the perfect spot for your winter getaway with camera on hand so you can record some amazing moments.
Every time I talked to people about Cuba, the first thing they talked about is the Cuban Sandwiches. It's not what's in it, but the bread what makes it unique. Every time I go home, we go by the bakery around 8 pm to buy freshly baked bread. It's so delicious with a crispy crust, soft and flaky on the inside. Cuban bread may seem like a baguette with a Spanish accent. But it’s its own thing. And no, what encases Arby’s new Miami Cuban sandwich doesn’t count. Ditto for what some chain grocers pass off as the real deal.
“Some changes are good,” bakery co-owner Tony Moré says on a walk through La Segunda Central Bakery, which also makes all manner of Cuban and non-Cuban pastries, cookies and bread daily. “But we don’t skimp on how we make [Cuban bread], or our recipe.”
Nearly every day of the year, about 5,000 of these proofed dough balls return to nearby tables where several bench hands, half of them women, working in seven-hour shifts around the clock, roll them by hand into soon-to-be three-foot-long loaves of bread. These are joined daily by an additional 13,000 shorter loaves, rolled by machine.
It’s here, too, that the mysterious palmetto fronds come into play. Bench hands gently press strips of palmetto fronds into loaves, forming a green line running the length of each. These leafy ribbons, apparently unique to Cuban bread, do what slashes on other kinds of bread dough do, allow the bread to expand during baking. The result after baking is a signature crusty ridge. Read more
Cuba the Film
This trailer just made me homesick! CUBA tells the powerful story of a land preserved in time, yet poised on the cusp of dramatic change. The nation’s vibrant culture, meticulously maintained colonial architecture, and pristine ecosystems provide a vivid window into the island’s history and spirit. CUBA will transport audiences across breathtaking landscapes, under the ocean surface to iridescent reefs, and into streets throbbing with music and dance in the heart of Havana. Through the eyes of Cuban artists, historians, and scientists, the film provides an intimate look this vivacious island nation. Filmed exclusively for IMAX® and giant screen formats, CUBA reveals why Cuba continues to stir the imagination of the world. CUBA is produced by Golden Gate 3D, in association with BBC Earth, Giant Screen Films and the Giant Dome Theater Consortium. Watch the trailer here.
Let's plan ahead
The Holiday season is approaching and with that your travel plans for 2019. Here are five reasons to visit Cuba:
1. Casa Particulares: Stay in people's homes and enjoy a real people to people experience.
2. Paladars: Eat at privately owned restaurants in people's homes.
3. Classic cars: Ride around Cuba in an old classic car.
4. Architecture: Cuba has one of the most beautiful colonial architecture in the Caribbean.
5. Culture: Practice a few Spanish words, learn a Salsa step or two and enjoy beautiful music and art.
Learn more about Traveling to Cuba on our Q&A section or book your favorite tour here.
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