28 edible monterey bay summer 2016 As we walked with our tiny cups of sweet Cuban coffee and half torta, it hit us—we had only paid 60 cents for breakfast! Perhaps this is unsurprising when you consider that the average wage in Cuba is less than $30 per month, but up until that point, we had no concept of the disparity between the two currencies. All of a sudden we realized that we were each carrying the equivalent of two years’ salary for the average Cuban. It was a fact that hit us hard, making us think back to the prostitutes outside the Casa de la Música and almost feeling guilty that despite this gross inequality, we could walk through any part of the city like kings, without any concern of being robbed or kidnapped. e following morning we traversed the crumbling streets and happened upon a thriving neighborhood market. I walked in and began taking pictures of local produce. Within a few seconds an old man with a white beard approached me, wagging his right finger in disapproval and motioning for me to put my camera away. I complied and finished the small market loop without taking any pictures. I’m not sure why he didn’t want me taking pictures—perhaps it was to hide the empty shelves, or perhaps it was because of the live chickens and roosters being pulled from their cages. at night we went to the F.A.C.—Fábrica de Arte Cubana. is sprawling warehouse, which was originally home to Cuba’ electric company and later an olive oil factory, has been converted into a chic nightclub and art venue. Multiple floors display a variety of live entertainment and visual art combined with bars and concession stands. e result is a massive complex that ranges in ambience from rhythm and blues music and contemporary photography to silent films and jazz. By 10pm a large line usually forms outside, and it’s not uncommon for more than 3,000 people to visit on any given night. By the fifth day the city was beginning to wear on us. e night air in Old Havana was so thick with cigar smoke and diesel fumes that it coated our teeth while we slept. Stray cats came out around midnight, slinking under metal gates and rooting through piles of garbage. A seemingly endless construction project had carved deep scars of excavated sewer lines across the city, leaving treacherous trenches everywhere we looked. Yet despite the general state of decay and seeming lack of resources, everyone we met seemed relatively happy. One hour of Internet at a local hotel would cost the equivalent of one week’s pay so it’s no wonder that average young Cubans are not going online to check Facebook and see what their friends ate for lunch, or sifting through an inbox of email solicitations or searching for the newest spring fashions. ere is no doubt that the fog of secrecy is steadily lifting from the island, but for now, Havana’s youths are enjoying more simple entertainment, like cruising the city in their vintage cars, stopping for delicious plates of ropa veija or sweet espresso, and dancing in the mist on the Malecón. John Cox is the former executive chef at Post Ranch Inn’s Sierra Mar in Big Sur. A prolific contributor to Edible Monterey Bay, he is on sabbatical, traveling, writing, photographing and gathering inspiration for his next project.
edible Monterey Bay Summer 2016
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