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"Doing Everything with Nothing": How Cuban Matriarchs Make Culinary Magic

Cuba is still in a state of crisis. People queue for hours on end just to get their daily rations, which consists of no more than some rice and beans. One can also get some pork, chicken, and vegetables if they have enough money to buy it.

But even with so little, Cuban families are able to make do because of the magic touch of the Cuban mothers and grandmothers who can make a delicious meal even with scarce ingredients.

“Cuban mothers and grandmothers have to become magicians. We find food where it isn’t.” This means rustling up ersatz ingredients at a moment’s notice. “If a dry wine isn’t available, OK, then I’ll use vinegar. If fresh tomatoes are too expensive, then I add a little sugar for sweetness. Often, we are out of oil so I use the fat that comes from the frying pork to then cook the beans or the rice in for more flavour. It becomes an experiment of sorts.”
Hector, who has been helping Maria stir the pot, is keen to tell me how much he likes his gran’s cooking. When we sit down to eat, I can see why. The pork is tender and the beans are packed with flavour. Maria is indeed a wizard in the kitchen.

(Image credit: Marc Averette/Wikimedia Commons)


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