We´ve got the pork
I landed in Havana, Cuba, on 22 December 2014. It was a very special time for the island: five days before, presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro had announced that their countries would restart diplomatic relations after more than half a century of rupture. There was much skepticism, but also hope for changes to come.
I traveled partly on holiday and partly to do a reportage about Cubans vicissitudes to eat in their everyday life. I grew up hearing a lot about the complex dynamics of food access in the island, so I wanted to go personally to try to find some answers.
I could partially summarize by saying that, for most Cubans, the main concern is what to put on their tables day by day. The variety of products is limited and access to them is hard because of low wages (a Cuban earns on average $ 18 by month).
A typical cuban dish contains rice and beans (called congrí), vianda (manioc, yam, sweet potato) and, in the best case, some fried or roasted pork (beef and fish are virtually impossible for most people). The limited range of products available (Cuba imports 80% of its food) makes this dish both current and special, ordinary and extraordinary, quotidian and celebratory.
I was fortunate to be invited to spend New Year’s Eve at Fonseca´s home, a family of Havana. To have a special meal that night, the Fonsecas made an economic effort and were able to buy a pork leg. Dulce, family´s grandmother, marinated the pork the day before and then roasted it for three hours. The result was a tender, juicy and slightly cumin perfumed meat. We ate the pork with congrí, manioc and a salad of lettuce and tomato, a simple dish with no big artifices that expresses the generosity of a people who share what little they have, and that gathers not only a certain gastronomic savoir faire but the political and economic history of a country that, despite the recent changes is going thru, is still worried about what to put on the table the next day.