One major benefit of not being Cuban in Cuba is that you can eat beef. For cows are sacred animals on this island. Beef appears only on the ration books of pregnant women, growing children and those lucky enough to be on special diets.
During the so-called ‘Special’ Period (a five-year state of economic emergency after the Soviet Union fell and took with it the island’s major trading partner and economic support), Cuban people resorted to eating fried breaded grapefruit skins as a poor substitute for a juicy filet mignon.
Those intrepid travelers determined to eat like the Cubans eat can change a few Convertibles into Cuban pesos and seek out the back-street establishments that accept the weak local currency.
The best deal in any town is the peso pizza, a thick wad of soft dough smothered with cheap ketchup and topped with a slippery toupee of processed cheese. It has a slightly charred aroma and the grease has a habit of escaping from the newspaper it’s wrapped in, butI hear the backpackers gleefully rejoicingit costs only a few cents.
And if you’re brave or really hungry, there’s always spit-roasted pig, cooked until blackened and butter-soft, then torn apart by dirty hands and stuffed into pappy white rolls.
Buen apetito, mi amor.