HAVANA TIMES, Feb 24 — Obtaining food has become a personal battle for me. Every week it’s a struggle to find one or another eatable that’s in short supply. That’s how the month goes by.
Last week it was eggs.
Walking at full speed to the markets on Monte Avenue, the problem was that by the time I made it almost there I learned that all of them had ran out minutes earlier.
Within two hours, eggs had disappeared.
Although behind the counters several cashiers set aside more than a few cartons for themselves, the place was out of them.
I felt defeated. Eggs are a serious matter – believe it or not.
Along with packs of sausage (that go for about $1.25 USD) and ground turkey (for about $1.35 USD), eggs round out the sacred protein-filled trilogy for many Habana residents.
From Saturday to Saturday they might show up in a few isolated markets here in the capital, but to get a hold of them you need something more than money – sheer luck.
I say “luck” because with timbirichismo (food-stand-mania) now being all the fashion, lots of people are trying to make a living selling egg sandwiches – natural ones with cheese and onions – or really almost any way you like them made.
But it’s not only that. Thanks to eggs, more than a few resellers are able to scrape up a living.
The government sells eggs for 1.50 pesos each (about 6 cents USD), but if you don’t have any luck buying them for that price, you’re not going to find them for anything less than 2 pesos, meaning a cartoon of 30 is going to be 15 pesos more expensive.
But that was last week’s shortage. This week it’s potatoes.
If there’s one thing that our flourishing new businesses can’t provide, it’s a potato and egg sandwich.
When you can find eggs there aren’t any potatoes, and when potatoes appear everybody seems to run out of eggs. It’s magical.
I went running all over the Cerro neighborhood trying to come up with some potatoes. I found some in an agro (market) on Vive Street, so I planted myself in the line prepared to endure a wait.
Potatoes practically disappeared from the national food scene almost a year ago.
Some people, those with deeper pockets, found them for sale pre-cooked in hard-currency CUC stores.
Tubers are so popular that their absence created a stir. Folks even started talking about government ineptitude and theft.
Word had it that all of them, down to the seeds, had been sold last year, so this year we wouldn’t have any to eat.
It reached the point that they ran a report on the TV news to calm everybody down a few days ago. They talked about how expensive it is to harvest potatoes and how, for the moment, priority had to be placed short-cycle crops, but that now tubers are guaranteed to appear shortly.
I stood there in line for an hour and a half, yet I tried not to get my hopes up too much because there were still a lot of people in front of me.
I started thinking about cadmium (from my old chemistry classes), and how after using that heavy metal as a fertilizer for many years it builds up in the soil and becomes incorporated in potatoes.
So, I figured that even if I didn’t get enough potatoes, at least I’d be saving myself from a sure dose of cadmium. In that way I had found a positive side to my situation.
But in the end I was lucky. I brought home 10 pounds of potatoes.
Two weeks, two battles. One win, one loss.