Monday, 18 February 2013

Cuba’s Food



Since 2002, the United States has continued as Cuba’s largest supplier of food and agricultural products.  Cuba has consistently ranked among the top ten export markets for U.S. soybean oil, dry peas, lentils, dry beans, rice, powdered milk, and poultry meat.  Cuba also has been a major market for U.S. corn, wheat and soybeans. U.S. firms, as a result of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSRA) signed into law in 2000, were allowed to sell food and agricultural products to Cuba on a cash basis.  

 Cuba, however, did not begin purchasing from the United States until after Hurricane Michelle had severely damaged its agricultural sector in 2001.From 2004 through 2006, U.S agricultural exports to Cuba have averaged more than $350 million, with the highest value, $382 million, in 2004.  Even with reduced U.S. exports of food and agricultural products to Cuba in 2005 and 2006, the United States has remained Cuba’s most important food and agricultural product supplier accounting for more than one-fourth of the country's total food and agricultural imports. With the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in the late 1980s, Cuba’s heavily subsidized sugar industry was not able to compete in international markets and it went through a major contraction.  Prior to this contraction, Cuba was the world's third largest sugar producer and largest sugar exporter.  

 Currently, Cuba’s sugar industry accounts for only slightly more than 10 percent of the volumes it was producing in the 1980s, and it would take large amounts of investment to rebuild the industry into a competitive sugar producer. Loss of export earnings from sugar caused major contractions, not only in the sugar industry, but in all sectors of Cuba’s economy in the early 1990s.  Cuba’s loss of its sugar export markets severely limited its export earnings resulting in a significant drop in imports, including agricultural inputs and food imports. As a result of large declines in domestic food production and food imports, Cuba experienced food shortages in 1993/94. 

In response to these food shortages, in 1993 Cuba began to implement an unprecedented set of reforms in agriculture that included breaking up most largestate farms into production cooperatives and opening farmers markets where farmers could sell surplus output (production beyond quotas they had to sell to the state) at free market prices.  These market-oriented policy changes resulted in gradual recovery in non-sugar agriculture.  Nevertheless, most food crops during the past three years have shown declining output trends.  Cuba has become increasingly reliant on food imports to feed its people.  

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Cuban cuisine

Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African, and Caribbean cuisine. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. This results in a unique, interesting and flavorful blend of the several different cultural influences, with strong similarities with the cuisine of the neighboring Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. A small but noteworthy Chinese influence can also be accounted for, mainly in the Havana area. During colonial times, Cuba was an important port for trade, and many Spaniards who lived there brought their culinary traditions along with them.

As a result of the colonization of Cuba by Spain, one of the main influences on the cuisine is from Spain. Along with Spain, other culinary influences include Africa, from the Africans that were brought to Cuba as slaves, and Dutch, from the French colonists are that came to Cuba from Haiti.Another important factor is that Cuba itself is an island, making seafood something that greatly influences Cuban cuisine. Another contributing factor to Cuban cuisine is the fact that Cuba is in a tropical climate. The tropical climate produces fruits and root vegetables that are used in Cuban dishes and meals.

A typical meal would consist of rice and beans, cooked together or apart. When cooked together the recipe is called either "Congri" (red beans and rice) or "Moros" or "Moros y Cristianos" (black beans and rice). If cooked separately it is called "Arroz con/y Frijoles" (rice with/and beans). A main course (mainly pork or beef), some sort of vianda (not to be confused with the French viande which stands for "meat", this term encompasses several types of tubers, such as yuca, malanga, and potato, as well as plantains, unripe bananas and even corn), a salad (usually simply composed of tomato, lettuce and avocado, though cucumber, carrots, cabbage and radish are not uncommon). Curiously, typical criollo meals largely ignore fruit, except ripe plantains, which are usually consumed together with the rice and beans. Tropical fruit could be served, however, depending on each family's preferences. Usually, all dishes are brought together to the table at once, except maybe for desserts.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Black-billed Magpie


The Black-billed Magpie is an opportunistic omnivore, eating many types of insects, carrion, seeds, rodents, berries, nuts, eggs, and also garbage and food from pets that are fed outside. Chicks, however, are fed animal matter almost exclusively. Magpies can land on large mammals, such as moose or cattle, to pick at the ticks that often plague these animals. More typically however, they forage on the ground, usually walking, sometimes hopping, and sometimes scratching with their feet to turn over ground litter.

Black-billed Magpies are also known to make food caches in the ground, in scatter-hoarding fashion. To make a cache the bird pushes or hammers its bill into the ground (or snow), forming a small hole into which it deposits the food items it was holding in a small pouch under its tongue. It may, however, then move the food to another location, particularly if other magpies are in the vicinity, watcning. Cache robbing is fairly common so a magpie will often make several false caches before a real one. The final cache is covered with grass, leaves, or twigs. After this the bird cocks its head and stares at the cache, possibly to commit the site to memory. Such hoards are short-term; the food is usually recovered within several days, or the bird never returns. The bird relocates its caches by sight and also by smell; during cache robbing, smell is probably the primary cue.