With the help of a local, I now gained a huge understanding and appreciation of the amount of efforts Cuban people go to simply catch a ride or to purchase a cake. The horse and buggy are still their most dependable form of transportation that you encounter on any typical two lane country road with neither a center stripe or shoulder.
On that very road you can always expect to find, most any time of the day or night; bicycles, oxen cart, horse-drawn cart, US 50’s old cars, and farm trucks in the pursuit of people movement. Not once did I come across any form of road kill, road rage or anyone needing to honk or drive in a reckless manner.
In the U.S. we sort of see Mexico, as perhaps being, something like twenty years behind the U.S. A visit to Cuba in 2019 quickly left me pondering those very same assumptions about Mexico and Cuba. Perhaps Mexico is say about twenty years ahead of Cuba.
On an outing in pursuit of a perfect dessert cake for family and friends; I saw first hand the ins and out of locating almost anything in Cuba. Let’s start now with your family wanting a cake. You might think, easy enough, just go to a bakery? Never gonna happen! Perhaps, bakeries do exist in the bigger cities but, not in the medium sized city, where we are now visiting.
Like the “amazing race “, your first challenge is finding the home of the local baker. Then your challenge becomes his challenge, as you provide him with a timely deposit to procure all of the necessary ingredients that go into making a cake like flour, fat, sugar, eggs, liquid, salt, and a type of leavening agent like baking soda or a Cuban mystery agent.
On our visit to Holguin, Cuba locals informed us of a shortage of wheat, cooking oil and eggs. Sort of the perfect storm of “we aren’t going to get to be eating cake on this trip, are we?
Not to worry we are told; dollars in Cuba have a way of solving almost any problem that may now ail the foreigners. With nearly a week head start to combat the “shortages problema” our cake was ordered and a delivery date for the drop off was exchanged; sometime between Tuesday and ten o’clock is what I thought I understood.
Directions to the bakers home goes something like . . . . go up the hill from the main street, past the vegetable kiosks, then take a right. Now look towards the Chinese tourist bus terminal where all the buses are parked. Walk through the buses past the oily grease pit until you come out the other side and reach a dirt road.
Walk down the dirt road past a new Canadian house under construction and begin asking anyone you encounter where is the bakers house?
Like the amazing race rules all Cuban cake seekers must now abide by the rules set at the beginning.
Failure to do so can result in time penalties, which can negatively affect the outcome of your Cubano cake. Unless otherwise stated, you are allowed to use the help of locals for navigation but not to carry your cake.
And now that half of our battle is won; the other half is getting the cake back in one piece or you’ll end up with a roadblock.
No sooner had we hit the road with the two foot by three foot wide cake that we encountered cries of help. A runaway team of oxen without a cart was now barreling towards us.
But just somehow the oxen didn’t seem to be afraid of us or this white and chiffon pink meregue topped cake we carried high above our heads.