Hai-Ou Hou, a painter and an instructor at Chesapeake Fine Art Studio in Stevensville, Maryland, came back from the Paint Cuba! Publisher’s Invitational Paint-Out talking about many things — including the fabulous food. She agreed to share her thoughts on dining, Cuban-style.
Yes, Cuban food —we ate it every day for seven days. The breakfast in our hotel put out a buffet every day with so much variety of food, and so much of it! It was just ridiculous to me, as I only need a couple of eggs in the morning.
Tourists like the traveling artists seemed to eat much more meat than the typical Cuban resident
Lunch and dinner were always very nicely presented. There were normally three courses, at least. It always came with drinks, too, but — too bad — I am not drinking. It was free mojitos, most of the time. I love mojitos!
Lobster, Cuban-style. Photo by Brenda Boylan
Hai-Ou Hou watched this loaf of bread get bounced around in her taxi. Photo by Larry Moore
A few artists did get sick, but I really think it was the local water. I brushed my teeth with bottled water and did not drink anything with ice, and I didn’t eat any uncooked vegetables. But I ate all the food and didn’t get sick. We went to many local private restaurants, and the food looks great and tastes great … but that’s not what Cuban people eat. It is prepared for tourists. The most local-feeling food I had was a homemade soup in a fisherman’s village. The soup looked very earthy, and I loved it, and even ate another person’s portion. (He was worried that he would get sick, from the way the soup looked.) The local people hardly eat meat; their food is very simple.
Cuban bread. Photo by Brenda Boylan
Some of the Cuban bread made it on to artists’ plates as bruschetta.
One day, a couple of friends and I got in a taxi before dinner, and we saw a loaf of bread on the dashboard. Every time he braked, the car would suddenly lurch, and the bread would fly down. One of my friends was sitting right in front of it, and had to catch it, touching it many times. The dust on that dashboard! There was nothing to cover the bread — no bag, nothing, and the bread was hard as a rock on the outside. I think maybe they were going to dip the bread into some homemade soup.
Hai-Ou Hou’s favorite meal may have been an earthy fisherman’s soup.
I wish I knew more about the local people’s food….
Eric Rhoads, the publisher of PleinAir magazine, previously wrote about the trip in PleinAir Today, and you can read it here. Turner Vinson created a video that communicates the feel of the trip; it can be found here.