07.02.2008 27 °C
One of the main downsides to visiting Cuba has to be, without a doubt, the food...or lack of it. I had been told by everyone I met who had been there not to expect much at all and they were so right! Most lunches and dinners we found ourselves looking at a menu only to be informed that all they had left were ham sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, ham and cheese sandwiches or fried chicken, as they had run out of everything else.
This is due to the system of rationing thats been there since the sixties, where everyone has a ration card and is entitled to a certain amount of food each month for a small fee. These include 2.7kg of rice, 1/4 kg cooking oil, 1.5kg pasta, 1.5kg sugar and a tiny amount of coffee. Anything else like chicken, vegetables and fish etc are given out pending availability. Everone also get 1 bar of soap a month (this explains why there are so many people begging us for soap-we ended up taking the soap from all the hotels we stayed in to give out to people), 1 toilet roll a day and 1 tube of toothpaste a month. Milk is reserved for pregnant women and children under 7 (I was craving a glass of milk all the time I was there but all you can get is this soy substitute..yuk!). Anything other than these that people require usually costs 20 times more than the ration price and with the majority of people earning between $10-$25 none of this can be afforded.
Weighing out the rations
We went into one of the government stores in Trinidad where they weigh out the rations and a lady there showed us her ration book where everything is listed and accounted for. It certainly was an eye opener, seeing the people queueing up for food and not having the opportunity to go into a shop and afford such simple items and often times shop shelves are completely empty due to the unavailability of items.
But if I never have to eat another ham and cheese sandwich for the rest of my life I’ll die happy.