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Feasting in Cuba, Day 3

February 25, 2016

 February 8, 2016

Farm, Food, Art, and Musical Theatre

This is the third installment of our adventure in Cuba. If you want to begin at the beginning, go to my post on February 19, 2016

After our usual fantastic breakfast in the Hotel buffet dining room, we headed out to the country to visit a farm. The weather was clear and cool. By now, I was wishing I had brought warmer clothes, but I was grateful for the one sweater and one rain jacket I did pack at the last minute.

The farm we visited was called La Mora, which has two meanings: it can be translated roughly as “beautiful black/brown woman,” or more correctly, it is a fruit grown all over Cuba. The African American women in the group chose to think of it as the former.


The feisty and fun Las Moras



Gualberto, the man who owns and farms La Mora took time out of his busy day to give us a complete tour of the inner workings of his enviable farm.


I don’t know which I liked better. The farm or the farmer



I have a thing for beautiful dirt. Our dirt at Corinne’s Orchard is better suited for making bricks than it is for growing things, and we have spent incalculable time and money trying, unsuccessfully, to turn it into good, black soil. Piedmont clay eats organic material and just grows heavier, stickier and redder the more you feed it. Today I have learned that one of the nicest things about Cuba is its dirt, and I say that with complete sincerity and admiration.

pretty dirt

Nice dirt, huh?


I also admired Gualberto’s skill, his work ethic, his knowledge, and his resourcefulness. He plants two or three crops together so one can grow up in the shade of the other, or one will come to maturity after the first has been harvested. Cuban farms are small, and government demands mean that the farmers have to make full use of every square inch of growable dirt. All the hard work shows. I marveled at the paucity of weeds, the organic insect traps made of bottles and molasses, the careful composting. Gualberto and I developed a crush on each other. I weeded his peas (I couldn’t help myself, the dirt was so pretty and loose, and the weeds were so easy to pull) and he called me a “doll.” It’s obvious those Cuban farmers love a woman who likes to get her hands dirty.


I couldn’t help myself. Those weeds were begging to be pulled



worm farm

The worm bin. Boy, was that good compost! See all the bananas growing in the background?


At the farm, Roberto bought lots of vegetables to add to the dinner he planned to make for us in  a couple of days, we were treated to a demonstration on how to harvest worm castings (best fertilizer ever), and then we slurped down coconut milk and ate tamarind right off the tree, before we headed out for lunch at Mediterraneo, the privately-owned Havana restaurant which buys its produce from La Mora. Farm to table in action, and the food was absolutely fresh and well prepared. I had suckling pig, Mike had the red snapper, and everyone who had the fish raved about it, saying it was fresh simple, and delicious. My pork was quite good as well, but I think the best thing was the mojitos. I’ve never tasted anything better.








After lunch, we met with yet another artist who gave us a tour of some galleries. Cuban art is secretly didactic, and as such, I could not understand much of it until it was explained to me. Once I made the connection between the art and the politics, I came to appreciate it very much. Here is a picture of Mike in an interactive exhibition, which comments on the commercialization of art. I think it’s cute, and certainly would have no problems taking it home with me!


Sold to the lady in the red hat!

messy lipstick

What political commentary does this make?


The next stop was a rooftop high above the Havana cityscape where we met a couple of  salsa dancers who invited us to tickle our toes to the rhythm of Cuban music and the gently setting sun. What a view we had, not only of the sunset and the spectacular show the dancers put on, but also of the hysterical attempts we made at salsa dancing ourselves. Mike and I have salsa’d in the past, so we thought we knew what we were doing, but clearly our American version is pretty tame next to the moves our teachers showed us. I have visions of learning to dance like that, but doubt if the vision will ever translate into reality


We ate dinner at the fancy restaurant at the hotel, but since I was still stuffed from our excellent lunch, all I had was soup. Mike seemed to have room for another round of fish, complete with dessert and brandy. We had to rush because we had an evening planned at a cabaret show in a theatre that was built for and by the Mafia folks in the 30s, in the grand old style. The show also was patterned after the grand old style as well, with lavish costumes, lots of singing and showstopping dancing, and a storyline that did not make a whole lot of sense. I would like to say we stayed out until midnight, enjoying the show all the way to the grand finale, but I was nodding off by 10 pm, so I was glad when Mike suggested an early exit and we crawled off to bed.

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