When a Catalan friend visited the island, he told me that he didn’t understand why many Cubans complain so much about food shortages, because —as he put it— “You couldn’t find fatter people than here.”
I explained that this was true only in appearances, because healthy eating in fact averts obesity, while people being overweight results from a diet that involves the excessive consumption of carbohydrates.
Nonetheless, carbohydrates are for many people here their principal nutritional supplement. Bread, sweets and flours await us daily in our homes, workplaces and schools, providing us with something to eat instead of milk, vegetables or meat. It’s as if those born on this island had a predetermined commitment to sugar and starches.
I remember having seen the cartoon Elpidio Valdes (a Cuban Superhero) where the early Cuban “mambises” independence fighters became enraged when the horse Palmiche accidently knocked over the only food possible to obtain in the dangerous jungle: rice with sweet potatoes.
Sometimes I forget that I’m living in today’s Havana; I feel more like a mambi fighter in the middle of a nineteenth century jungle, because several times a week carbohydrates are the sole dish on my dinner table.
I’ll look across and see two croquettes (a bread-encased doe) lying on my plate, the place where I would have preferred to see a piece of chicken or would have even accepted the presence of sweet rolls while yearning for a nutritious slice of papaya.
I’m a diehard optimist, and I know that the day will come when I’ll have breakfast with a cold glass of fresh cow’s milk poured over an exquisite cereal, along with a slice of a red watermelon; and for lunch I’ll dine on a snapper fillet – all of this without feeling the slightest impact on my budget.
For once and for all, we will have overthrown the dictatorship of carbohydrates which so easily lead to hypertension. But above all, we will appear to the world as a people who are truly “well fed.”