New Bakeries in Cuba
Privately-owned bakeries have opened across Havana, for some time now. Many families in my town have set up a counter and a shelf in their garage or doorway to their house and have set up their own bakery.
Ingredients such as flour and yeast are almost always imported by a family member from a nearby country, while others buy them directly from a foreign supplier. There are people who dedicate themselves to just making the bread, and then you have the people who distribute it. In my town, they use horse-drawn carts, mopeds and all kinds of cars running on diesel or petrol.
This doesn’t mean to say that the bread problem has been fixed, but private bakers do the impossible to make bread every day and I admire them for this and am very grateful.
Ordinary Cubans choose the cheapest bags of bread that are a plastic bag with 8-10 soft bread rolls inside. The size of these rolls has been shrinking as demand has grown. These bags used to originally cost 25 pesos back in 2019, but now they cost around 70 pesos.
These new bakeries are a lot more efficient that state-owned bakeries. In addition to better quality of bread, there’s a better selection and the sales assistant is always friendly, plus you don’t have to wait in line, I think that’s what I like the most about them.
In the past couple of days, in the early morning at the bakery I normally buy from, there are three or four people waiting for the bread that the majority of us buy- the bags of 8-10 bread rolls. You don’t have to wait very long, just a couple of minutes and then the bread comes out of the oven and every one buys it. They also sell baguettes, loaves of bread and sometimes sweet bread rolls, which you can come and buy whenever you want.
I’m explaining all of this so I can tell you what happened to me one morning. We were a group of people waiting for the soft bread rolls. Suddenly, a foreigner – European looking – comes out of nowhere and asks me in perfect Spanish if we were all waiting for bread. There were only three of us and we nodded that we were. Then, the unexpected happened. The foreigner played the foreigner a little more and came up to me and asked:
“This means that there isn’t any bread.” I told him that we were waiting for a specific kind of bread and I pointed out the glass display where there were other kinds of bread. Then, the insulted foreigner told me that he didn’t understand how we Cubans could waste so much time, but he couldn’t waste it, “Plus, I’m in a real hurry.”
Then, the sales clerk intervened and kindly showed him the other bread on offer and explained that we Cubans don’t like to waste our time either, although he admitted that we do in fact lose a lot of time in Cuba. “But it isn’t our fault,” the baker gently said. Without even looking at him, the foreigner picked out his bread and replied, “In Cuba, you live with your back to Time and this is something you can see a mile away.”
There’s no doubt more could be said about this. A few seconds after the foreigner bought what he wanted, our bread rolls came hot out of the oven. A tender smell of bread that accompanied me all the way home.