Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

December 31, 1998, Cuba Free Press.


HAVANA - Cuba Free Press offers some suggestions for preparing a "feast" during the so-called "Special Period," when pork, black beans and traditional salads are affordable only by a very few. We will use palm oil to cook, which is now being distributed through the ration card and which, according to the official press, is better for you than soy or sunflower seed oil.

To marinade we will mainly use garlic, onion, coriander, parsley and carrot leaves. As a novelty we'll have cuy, a type of animal from South America which is rich in protein and from a family of rodents.

Whether you use it or not will depend on your ability to overcome its disagreeable appearance, although its meat is not much different from rabbit. So the main dish, lacking pork, is roasted cuy.

For those who would rather avoid the weird animal, we would suggest potato croquettes and Chilean jurel, the type that comes canned in water, which is easy to prepare. As a side dish, whether having cuy or croquettes, there's nothing better than a fufu-puree of plantains, or a stew, mostly made with pumpkin, which is very popular in the eastern part of the country.

This stew was very well liked by the African natives brought to Cuba as slaves in a previous century and is recommended for those suffering from constipation.

If you have enough rice, your best bet is a lentil and rice dish, which can be very tasty with a pinch of dark sugar, something that will take away the taste of soil from it. If there's enough cooking oil - or margarine (don't even think about lard or anything else, of course, for frying), some pea fritters would make a good side dish.

For those who wish something healthier, the ideal thing would be to prepare some stuffed sweet and sour cabbage or tomato salad. For dessert we suggest that "delicacy" of cerelax - the grayish powder which is sold to the elderly on the ration card as a good substitute for powdered milk. When it is mixed with enough sugar, cinnamon and lemon peel, it might be thought of as a delicacy. Or perhaps a potato flan, made with uncooked potato, which is made by grating it, mixing it with three eggs, vanilla extract, and a generous portion of sugar, preferably refined sugar. You prepare the caramel, add the mix, and let it set for some 40 minutes in the pressure cooker.

If you don't have enough time for the "delicacy" or the "flan", you can buy a bar of guava - 5 pesos from the "salesmen" or $1.10 at the hard currency store - and eat it with powdered-milk cheese, another delicacy which can be bought only at some retail stores. (It takes four cups of powdered milk, four whole eggs, 1/8 of a quart of margarine, two liters of water, 10 teaspoonfuls of vinegar, and 5 teaspoonfuls of salt).

For good digestion it would be wise to drink a tea of Arab origin which is prepared differently in Spain than in Cuba. In Spain it is made with honey, and on the Island it is made with sugar, cinnamon, and some other spices.

But even more authentic is the canchanchara, the typical brew of the countryside during the war of independence. It is made with rum or aguardiente - the first spirits drawn from a still - lemon, good herbs and certain wild weeds. End your feast with a good cup of coffee, mixed with beans and sweetened with dark sugar.

By Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press.

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