Notes On Specific Cuban Foods
Cuba is known for its breads and pastries. Thousands of state-run bakeries can be
found in all the cities and towns and it is a daily ritual for Cubans to line up in the
morning to get their bread rations and to stock up on other baked goods. The
bakeries are known as panaderias . Each Cuban is entitled to one mini loaf of
bread ( un pan ) per day at the very nominal price of only 5 cents (MN) each. This
price literally equates to a fraction of a penny. Additional breads cost 1 peso (MN)
each. The breads are available in either soft ( suave ) or crusty ( duro ) form. Foreign-
ers are also permitted to buy as many breads as they want, at the standard Cuban
price of 1 peso (MN) each.
Most panaderias also offer other types of bread in a multitude of different sizes and
shapes, as well as fresh pastries such as shortbread cookies ( torticas ), mini cakes
( marquesitas ) and glazed sweet breads.
The prevalence of pork and chicken in Cuban cuisine is due mostly to the fact that
it is illegal to butcher cows in Cuba. This is not for any religious reason, but rather
because the dairy situation on the island is always precarious and the government
insists on using the few cows which the island does have exclusively for milk pro-
duction. While beef can sometimes be found as a specialty menu item at certain
state-run restaurants, for the most part it is rare or non existent.
Most of the beef which is available is imported. This usually means that it is both
expensive and not fresh. Beef hamburger patties can be found in upscale restaur-
ants and tourist resorts, but these patties are almost always of the frozen variety.
The great majority of fresh hamburgers which you will encounter are made with
either pork or lamb meat.
As the economy has started to improve, some large supermarkets have started to
carry a small selection of imported beef products. Due to their price, they are con-
sidered a delicacy among local Cubans.
Interesting Fact: Killing a cow in Cuba is a criminal offense and a relatively bad
one, too. Even if the cause of death is accidental or of natural causes, it is the Min-
istry of the Interior's job to conduct a full investigation. Some Cubans joke that it is
a greater criminal offense to kill a cow than it is to kill another Cuban.
Fruits and vegetables
Some of the most popular fruits in Cuba are pineapples ( piña ), bananas ( platano ),
oranges ( naranja ), papaya ( fruta bomba ) and mangos. You are probably already
familiar with these fruits. But in your exploration of Cuba you are also likely to en-