Okay, this is Supermarkets Part Dos. Kate, in her infinite wisdom, gently reminded me that I left out many things. So of course, this entry will be in list form, as are most things in my life.
1. Lack of Produce
-There is no produce in supermarkets in Cuba. Outside the city, there are produce stands that are usually empty, and they have vegetable markets that (at least right now, in the Winter) have a lot of root vegetables, sometimes fresh jalapeños (!), and SOMETIMES lettuce. But lettuce isn't in our ration, so I don't get to eat much of it. (Side note: we just started getting acelga a.k.a. bok choy and i am so excited about it. Milady didn't know who to make it, so I showed her. Lots of garlic, olive oil, salt, a llittle white wine, and some diced red pepper for color. I loved cooking with her. But it really made me miss cooking with Brit at 196 Hillside.) So anyway, I can't just buy a head of lettuce for fun. It makes me sad. I have seen apples for sale exactly once. They were at the bread counter. And they were gross.
2. There is Nothing in the Store
-Even if the store is huge, there aren't that many products. To make up for this, they wil have shelves and shelves on one item. Today I was in a supermarket and there was a whole aisle for soda. They had one-half of one side (a.k.a. 1/4 of the aisle) filled with cans of "Tu Kola," Cuba's poor excuse for Coke. In the cookie aisle, one whole side was filled with chocolate wafers. Very odd. But I guess if you have nothing to fill the aisles with, that's the only option you have.
3. Weird Things are Sold Separately
-I kind of mentioned this before, but there are different counters in the supermarkets. If you buy something from one of these counters, you pay for it there instead of at the register. Today I paid close attention, and realized that its actually very odd. I bought some oregano from one of these counters, and also at this counter was some sort of oil, sazón, Cuba's version of Ramen, spices, and one kind of ice cream. Kind of an odd assortment. I don't know why they're sold separately, maybe to keep people from stealing? Who knows.
4. Things I Want to Buy are Very Expensive
-Cereal. Pickles. Something called Mexican Salsa, but is most likely not.
5. The Ever-Illusive Peanut Butter
-We heard reports that you could buy peanut butter at a supermarket in Miramar, which is a fancy suberb of Havana. It used to be where foreigners would have summer houses, so the houses are huge and beautiful and have lots of yard space, etc. At least for Cuban standards. Now, these houses have been turned into embassies for other countries. So they are obviously well-maintained. After my nap this morning/afternoon, I went with Emma, Meg, and Steph to this fancy supermarket. Rough life, I know. We had visions of a hybrid Whole Foods/Trader Joe's, full of lettuce and peanut butter. I don't know what I was thinking. It was pretty much the same thing as the Galleria (my local supermarket), just bigger. But that doesn't necessarily mean more stuf, as I have explained. And no peanut butter. But, they had little food stands/cafeterías/I don't even know in the parking lot! So we tried to get draft beer, but unfortunately could not. So instead we got french fries, met some Swiss/German/European guys who were asking us what we do for fun in Havana (they had just gotten here after driving across the whole island. I think we disappointed them). We also met a guy from Chicago on the U.S. Olympic wrestling team. Kevin had no neck to speak of. He's here for a wrestling match. With him was a GIANT Cuban guy who was also a wrestler, for the Cuban national team. We later discover he (the Cuban, I forget his name) has taken a liking to our fair Meg, and she gets his phone number and address. One more number that won't be called. Sigh.
Okay well I think that's all. Kate, I hope this has really painted the picture of Cuban supermarkets for you. I would like to leave you all with a quote from a friend of mine who is spending his semester studying in Hawaii. We were discussing the difficulties of island life, mostly how much we miss food. Me, because they just don't have it here, and him because Hawaii is so expensive.
"I get like menstrual and want to eat 400 pizzas covered in ice cream and chicken cutlets."
Five weeks until I'm back in the States. So crazy.