This was a day that was not supposed to happen, but was meant to be. As mentioned in my previous post, Judy thought she was scheduled to return to Canada the day before. However, thanks to her mistake, we all had the chance to enjoy another day together at Carlos’ home in Cárdenas. We hired a taxi (a Lada) from the resort to take Elaine and I to the Santos’. Getting there proved a lot easier this time, we actually had the correct address as well as directions, so the cab ride was swift, without drama.
For our first visit to Cárdenas on March 30th, Carlos’ mother, Juana, had intended to cook us Cuban style lobster tail. However, she was unable to source any lobster in town. Juana is an excellent cook and we were looking forward to tasting some authentic Cuban food. For this visit, Carlos was able to purchase 10 fresh lobster tails and Juana went to work in the kitchen. Just like my Italian Grandmother, when Juana takes over the kitchen, it’s best to stay out of her way lest you are threatened to get out of her way at machete point (yes, it’s true).
The only guests who made it into kitchen without a scolding from Juana, were chickens running around in the backyard. The ejection of foul was left to Judy, a task she did with aplomb. No doubt, it’s only a question of time before this chicken finds its way to the dinner table instead of the kitchen floor.
While Juana went about the craft of preparing our feast, Elaine, Judy, Carlos and I went about the business of drinking cervezas and mojitos. I went next door to visit Roberto, Carlos’ stepfather. Roberto speaks no English and I can barely understand Spanish, however, some rudimentary communication was still possible. Roberto invited me into his home to show off his Marathon medals he won during the 1980’s. His athletic medals and certificates are proudly displayed on the wall of his modest and well kept home.
I walked back to Carlos’ home to enjoy mojitos and smoke another fine cigar with Elaine, Carlos and Judy. On top of our remarkable libations, the aroma of lobster, garlic and other seasonings filled the kitchen with the promise of an excellent meal. Anytime a home is pungent with the smell of garlic, it takes me back to fond memories of my Italian Grandmother’s apartment in Montreal. At around 2:20, lunch was finally served and our appetites were well honed and taste buds receptive. It was well worth the wait, Juana’s Cuban style lobster was just incredible, by far our best meal in Cuba. Juana also prepared Cuban style rice and beans as the side dish.
After lunch we lounged around Carlos’ home to relax and digest our feast. All food scraps leftover from the meal’s preparation were taken out back to feed Roberto’s pigs. Nothing is wasted here and the recycling of discarded foods is immediate. Sooner or later those table scraps will wind back up on the dinner table as pork. Speaking of future foods, we heard some rustling noises coming from a galvanized pail under Roberto’s bench, when Elaine took it out, this is what we found: eggs in waiting and chicken in a bucket.
The hen laid her eggs in the pail and Roberto had set down a towel to make her comfortable. This chicken was anything but chicken and would attack anyone who ventured to close. Nasty little shit she was, but well cared for and some day I’m sure she we will be quite tasty.
Come mid-afternoon, it was time to venture into town. Carlos, ever the negotiator, hired a horse and buggy to take us through town for the day for a mere 10 convertible pesos. It was also time for me to get a haircut, despite several unsuccessful attempts at the resort and in Varadero. Carlos took us to one of Cárdenas’ “town” barbers. As such, this tiny barber shop is a business set inside the front patio of the barber’s home. I got an excellent haircut and beard trim for a mere 5 pesos.
The rest of the day was spent touring Cárdenas by horse and buggy. This is a nice slow way to see a town, the ocean and experience life as it happens there. It’s time well spent. We finished our evening at a local Italian Restaurant. The food was decent, better than the buffet food at the resort, but nowhere near as good as the lunch Juana prepared for us. The four of us all enjoyed pasta and washed it down with a decent Spanish Rioja. All in all, a great day with good friends. I can’t wait to return there.
It should be easy to spot which photos in the above gallery were taken with the $15 Holga lens for that 1960’s film effect in a digital age.