Thursday, February 19, 2009

Kon Queso- MF Doom

So I know I just updated yesterday, but there are a couple of things I want to talk about that don't really have to do with events, more just like how stuf is in Cuba. So this is one of those.
I want to talk about grocery stores. For anyone who knows me even a little bit, you know that I have a deep love of grocery stores. This is most definitely from my mom. Every country we went to (and now every country I go to on my own) I MUST visit a grocery store. I think they are so telling of people's day to day lives, because food shopping is a necessity. And considering I love to cook, grocery stores are essential to my life.
But since food is rationed in Cuba, people get their food at bodegas. I think I have kind of talked about bodegas before, but I'm going to talk about them again. Most people in the U.S. think of bodegas as shady corner stores where you can buy pretty much everything (or if you're from Boston you think of it as an elitist place to buy expensive sneakers).
Here, bodegas are where people "buy" their rationed food. The food is so cheap (pennies for a kilo of rice), but everyone only gets a certain amount, which is usually not enough. The prices are kept artificially low (the price of rice hasn't gone up since 1959) so people can afford it. Everyone has a ration booklet where they mark off how much they buy each month and how much they have left.
So for those lucky enough to have extra money to supplement there food, they go to the grocery store. There is a small supermarket right next to my residencia, which is great. You go in and you have to check your bag at the "guardabolsa." I assume the reason for this is to eliminate theft, but I don't know if theft was a big problem here. But you have to check your bags at a lot of places, so maybe it was common.
Anyway, you go in and shop around, theres a cheese counter, meat counter, bread counter, and then aisles of food. Usually, we head straight to the snack aisle, considering most of our meals are provided. They have a couple of different brands (my favorite brand is from Spain, and there is a Brazilian company that makes delicious hazlenut wafers), and surprisingly, there is a bunch of different options for cookies and crackers that are gluten-free. I think this is odd because up until very recently in the U.S., these products were hard to find. They also have a ton of snacks that are full of fiber.
Something of late that we have discovered: Magic Dioxide. They are these cookies with chocolate filling that are absolutely delicious and to our surprise, are filled with vitaminas y minerales! So now we all have to eat them becasue their healthy. I don't know why they are called Magic Dioxide, but it always makes me smile. We also buy these GIANT tins of pseudo-saltines that last us for weeks. And now, since Dad brought me peanut butter, we make peanut butter sandwiches on our crackers to take to class. it makes me feel as if I'm in third grade and I love it.
Okay, back to the super market. If you want to buy rum, certain liquors, and then other random products (buillon cubes, some chocolates, ice cream bars) you have to wait in a separate line which always takes forever.
I think the biggest difference between shopping here and in the U.S. is this: when I go food shopping at home, I bring my list and get what I need and leave. When I go shopping here, something I bought last week could not be here this week. You never know what's going to be there. Sometimes they have Coca-Cola (like the real stuf) and sometimes they only have the Cuban brand. So I think the uncertainty of what's available is what fascinates me.
Okay, that's all I have to say about grocery stores.


  1. okay i have more to add. i think you need to comment on the "displays" in grocery stores, or anywhere else for that matter, where there is so little, that they will put, for example, a few rolls of cookies in the counter where there should be fresh baked goods. chels, do more justice to this general picture that i am too yoga-ed out to articulate right now.

  2. chelsea, i love you, but please come home.
    i understand your spanish is getting better daily
    but your english is beginning to suffer. (you know, in an adorable way)