Except from my childhood memories and the same reference made in a story by the now-deceased Cuban writer Manuel Cofiño about the El Madrid Café (except for the distance from here), I had never felt what I did when visiting the grill of one of the new generation of self-employed workers businesses near my house.
The man attending the public and his wife — in charge of the kitchen — were equipped with the best of smiles and a stock of supplies that included a grill for heating up snacks, cucumbers and pickled peppers, mustard, mayonnaise, salt and pepper, butter, several dressings and the blessing of a nice breeze that passed through the small shelter under the trees.
The place was made of iron panels, corrugated steel and wood in the rear part of their house (a micro-brigade apartment in Alamar).
In the day they sell light, fresh food that’s pretty tasty, and the place is kept orderly and clean.
The conversation began because, after tasting my first glass of tamarind juice, I requested a second from him. With that he took advantage of the chance to tell me: “I knew it! I knew when you tried the first one, for sure you’d have a second. That’s what always happens.”
After that, we continued talking.
He told me that he wasn’t in any hurry and that the beginning of this period of new self employed operations like this would be marked by many failures, but that what he and his wife were hoping for as their first goal was to survive the avalanche of competition.
They knew they wouldn’t bring in a lot of profit initially, but that when the competition began to fold then the time would come for things to stabilize and start earning.
He held that this beginning would require patience, and that being supplied with fruit planted in the yards of neighboring families would guarantee them lower costs for juices and fruit sodas – the products most asked for by consumers given the heat here (Alamar is like a huge open field with few places for shelter from the sun).
He told me that he wasn’t the type to get discouraged easily, and that while the others might not have thought things out well, he had.