Saturday, February 15, 2014

The weekly ration

HAVANA TIMES — Here is the list of the “protein products” available to Havana residents with their ration booklet for the week of January 27-31.   It also includes a preview of some food items that will be available in February.

Chicken: (one pound for consumers over 14 and also for those persons under doctor’s orders). Distribution concludes in the municipalites of La Lisa, Centro Habana and San Miguel. Distribution in Habana del Este, Boyeros and Marianao.
Mortadela: (one pound for children between 0 and 13 years). Distribution in Plaza, Playa and Centro Habana.
Mortadela: A half pound for all consumers. Distribution concludes in Marianao And Guanabacoa. Distribution in Cerro, Diez de Octubre, San Miguel and Arroyo Naranjo.
Eggs: Five per consumer and extra for those under doctor’s orders). Distribution ends in Arroyo Naranjo, La Lisa, and Cerro. Distribution in Cotorro, Plaza, Regla, Habana Vieja, Centro Habana and San Miguel.
In February the neighborhood bodega stores will be supplying the following rationed products for Havana residents: 
Rice: 7 lbs / Beans: 10 ounces / Refined sugar: 3 pounds / Brown sugar 1 pound / oil: a half pound / preserves: 13 portions / Coffee: 4 ounces for consumers over 7 years old.
Note: Coppelia dairy products informs that the municipalities of Arroy Naranjo, Cotorro, Guanabacoa, La Lisa, San Miguel del PadrĂ³n, Cerro and Regla will receive their whole and skim milk allotments for medical prescriptions; the rest of the municipalities will be concluding distribution of milk formula.

Havana’s Empresa Provincial de Comercio

Cuba’s Ration Booklet: A Catalogue of Privations

Ernesto Perez Chang, February 14, 2014 Havana Times

The Cuban ration booklet. Photo: Rene Bastiaasen.

HAVANA TIMES — This is the basic consumer basket of the average Cuban: five eggs and some pounds of rice (the kind that “gets sticky”, not cooked) every month, enough sugar to turn a regular glass of water into an emergency breakfast, one kilogram of table salt (with crystals the size of Ping-Pong balls) once every who knows how many months. Placing these product quantities on the same plane as monthly needs entails a complicated mathematical operation.

Often, ration stores dish out a few grams of ground-up tendons and fat mixed with soy flour, a bit of seasoning and chemical preservatives that no laboratory could identify. People eat this concoction without knowing what it is, exactly, but they have learned to swallow without asking too many questions. The formula may well be one of the country’s best-kept secrets and this business of eating blindly one of the most intelligent of consumer strategies.

When the beans one buys aren’t eaten through by worms or weevils, they smell of fumigation chemicals. Often, they are so old and stale that there’s no way to turn them into something humans can eat.

The cooking oil, with flies floating on the surface, is good, not for dressing, but for dirtying the bottle it comes in, and the only cheap bread a working-class person can afford has such a sharp taste and weird texture it sometimes ends up as pig fodder.

If the ship everyone gawks at from behind the seaside wall happens to dock here, then people will get their one pound of chicken (meant to last them for thirty days). Sometimes, one manages to bribe a doctor into prescribing you a special diet and, after some difficult bureaucratic procedures, can get their hands on a little bit more food for a few months. Commonly, people develop complications as the years go by because of prolonged malnutrition – and getting the extra bit of food is like winning the lottery, such that the illness arrives as a blessing in disguise.

The food ration booklet doesn’t put much more on our tables. Every year, the authorities take something out of them, such that the booklet never thickens, it only gets thinner. That’s what the incessant re-editions amount to. The product slots that manage to survive these regular trimmings end up as empty as the inside of our fridges, to say nothing of our bellies. …"

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