Our Daily Bread in Cuba

By Nike E.G.

The daily bread roll that Cubans can buy at a low subsidized price.

HAVANA TIMES — I’m a Cuban housewife and I’m sick and tired of buying bread rolls at my neighborhood bakery and the other one we’ve got in town, it’s an ordeal for me. I go in the morning and they don’t have bread. There’s no bread at noon and, at 3 in the afternoon, they tell me that they’ll have some at 5:30. Then they sell so little that, when I get there, all of it has been sold, making a mockery of my age.

I don’t know what else to give my children when they’re hungry, because there’s nothing other than our daily bread. Then there’s the quality of that bread. It’s been long since I last ate a bread roll made with love, and oil…but that’s another story.

The other thing I need to worry about as a mother and housewife is what to put on the bread. When I’ve got eggs and cooking oil, I make some mayonnaise. When I don’t have one ingredient, I honestly don’t know what to do. Cheese, my favorite, is out of the question: the cheapest kind, when available, costs 30 pesos the pound. This is why the cheapest and healthiest food, for me, is avocado.

I would like to share with you an avocado recipe, to see if, together, we can overcome the problems I’ve just told you about.

Avocado Recipe

1 avocado
1 large onion or 2 small onions
4 (or more) cloves of garlic. The more you add, the spicier it will be.
1 teaspoon of salt
Juice from 1 lemon

Slice the onion and garlic and put it in a blender with the lemon juice, the salt and avocado (in chunks). Blend.

Put in the fridge and, when you’ve got the bread, spread it. Let me know if you liked it soon.

  • Mark Williams

    I am wondering why Cubans don’t make bread. Is no flour available?

    • Moses Patterson

      For the same reasons that you don’t make your bread…..and I suspect there is plenty of flour, eggs, oil and baking powder where you live.

  • Eden Wong

    I never understood why Cubans line up for that crap white bread that’s so popular. Why don’t you bake your own bread? It’s not complicated, unless you don’t have an oven.

    • Moses Patterson

      Because its harder to find and more expensive to buy the flour, eggs, oil, and baking powder in the quantity that you need to make a simple loaf of bread.

      • Eden Wong

        I make pretty incredible no-knead peasant bread with flour, salt, sugar, yeast and touch of butter. Start at 4:00pm and it’s on the table ready to eat at 7:00pm. I’ve introduced it to countless Cubans and the response has always been killer.

        Granted, Cubans living strictly within the CUP economy can’t afford it, but everyone else can. Ingredients are cheap and readily available.

    • Griffin

      Eggs are scarce & too expensive for most Cubans. Milk is rationed for children 7 and under, everybody else must pay in CUCs. Flour is scarce & expensive. Yeast for raising bread is probably impossible to come by. The Castro regime centralized food production and distribution as a means of controlling the population and keeping them dependent on the centrally planned state system.

      If they let people bake their own bread today, where would it end? Pretty soon they’ll want to think for themselves, too.

      • Eden Wong

        If you’ll see my reply below it’s not that difficult – with the very
        important caveat that you’re not living solely within the CUP economy. In Havana and many other major centres flour, salt, sugar, yeast and butter are not that tricky to acquire.

  • Doug1943

    There is a (probably apocryphal) story of the Soviet GOSPLAN official who visited New York City for two weeks in the 1970s, as part of an official exchange. As he was shown this landmark and that feature around the city, he couldn’t help but notice the wide variety of delicatessens, bakeries, and other shops selling a huge range of bread. Bread of every kind, every shape, the bread of several dozen ethnic groups who make up New York City.

    Toward the end of the tour he was asked, “Is there anything else you’d like to see, or any City official you’d like to meet?”

    “Yes”, he said. “I’d like to meet the man in charge of baking and distributing bread in New York City. I have to admit, we in Moscow might learn something from him.”

    This caused puzzlement on the part of his American hosts. “Errr…. there is no such man. Bread doesn’t get made, or distributed, that way. How about a City Planner in charge of parks?”

    “No, we have fine parks in Moscow. I want to meet the Bread Plan man,” the Soviet insisted.

    “But there is no such man. It doesn’t work that way here!” replied his host. “No one is in charge of bread production … it just … sort of … happens. People open bakeries or food shops if they think they can make money doing so. No one tells them to, or what to bake, or how much to charge, or where to put the shops. It just … sort of … takes care of itself.”

    “Well, all right,” the Soviet official said, resignedly. ” You don’t have to play me for a fool. I suppose I can understand why you would want to keep your planning methods a secret here. We wouldn’t show you our space programme, after all. But it really does seem like unnecessary secrecy.”

    And, sadly, his spirit lives on. Because there is no doubt a Man-in-Charge-of-Bread-Production in Havana. Perfecting his socialism, year after year.

  • Holger Messner

    Hello Nike. Thanks for the recipe! I will show it to my wife. She likes avocados too. ;-) When I was little, my mom made German pancakes. Money was always a problem for my mom. Take 2-3 cups flower, 1-2 eggs, some salt, water or milk. Stir it until you have it smooth. Take a pan and fry the pancakes until their are golden brown. If you have left over. Cut the pancakes in little pieces and make a soup in the evening. Put the pieces in the soup. Yummie! You can serve the pancakes with salad. (What we did.) Same recipe can be used for noodles. (“spaetzle”) Less water/milk. Boil water. But the dough on a wet board. Take a knife and chop little pieces into the boiling water. Cook them for a couple minutes until they start swimming on the top. If you need to make your own bread and do not have yeast:

    1 1/4 unbleached all-purpose white flour

    1 cup of warm water

    Glass jar with lid or piece of cheesecloth

    Mix flour and water in the jar and let stand until the batter bubbles and rises. This may take anywhere from overnight to a week!

    Bread recipe:
    Stir together yeast, 1/2 cup flour and warm water in a large bowl. Cover and let sit in a warm spot for about 30 minutes.
    Stir beer, remaining flour and salt into the bowl. Mix until all the flour is incorporated and forms a thick sticky dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm spot for 2 hours, until doubled in size.
    Scrape all the dough from the bowl with a rubber spatula, and place on a well-floured surface. Generously flour the top of the dough and form into a loaf shape.
    Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal. Transfer loaf to the baking sheet and sprinkle the top with flour. Cover loosely with a towel and let rise for 30-40 minutes.
    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
    Place a small loaf pan of warm water on a lower rack to humidify the oven.
    Slash a long slit in the top of the loaf with a sharp knife or razor. Place the baking sheet on the rack above the pan of warm water in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown.
    Transfer to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.
    I hope it helps a little.

  • Soon yiou will be able to make your own bread Get ready!