The croquette, that small piece of cylindrical mass, is a type of food that’s so well known on our island that no one would imagine it originated in France.
The croquette has been a food frequently found on Cuban tables since the beginning of the Special Period crisis (the collapse of the socialist camp); it’s one of those things that ended up coming to stay.
There is no shortage of jokes or funny stories that have this product as their target: People kid about croquettes that sticks to your gums, the croquette that stretches like chewing gum, the ones that can crack people’s teeth, explosive croquettes, or “conundrum croquettes” (with undistinguishable flavors).
But all jokes aside, eating croquettes is a necessity for many Cuban families.
A pound of pork costs 30 pesos, and four small chicken thighs go for around 60; meaning a family of four can get by on 90 pesos for only three days.
But since 90 pesos is almost 25 percent of the average monthly wage in Cuba, and a month has 30 days — not just 12 — the croquette emerges as a viable alternative.
A package of 10 croquettes costs only 5 pesos. What a joy!
But it’s not so easy to get this product, and even less so these days since so many new businesses have opened selling food – among them croquette sandwiches, and it seems that these are one of the big sellers.
I headed out this past Saturday in search of my croquettes for the month but I couldn’t find them anywhere. So, I kept walking until I got to a fish market that sells them.
Although I got there early, the place was already packed with people. I was number 40 in the line, though the truck delivering the croquettes still hadn’t shown up.
After waiting almost an hour, the truck appeared and I managed to buy two packages. The line was long but the clerks limited the sales to 20 croquettes per person; so more of us could get at least some.
I headed on home content, but I knew that the next weekend I’d have to get up earlier.
I only hope they keep producing croquettes. Though they say they’re made from chicken, to me they taste like fried bread. Still, I don’t believe there are many of us who can afford other types of main dishes.