Mojitos y Arroz

What do you do if you’re a foodie and you travel to a country where food is…the least of it, really?

(Can you say American Embargo?)

You drink a lot of mojitos. You discover other other pleasures. And you learn to love pork, chicken, and arroz con frijoles.

Last week I traveled to the beautiful, long-suffering, charming and cryptic country of Cuba. I went with my 82-year-old mother. We’d been planning this trip for a year (it got cancelled a year ago, due to my broken wrist). We wept when we encountered each other in the tiny Juan Gonzalez airport in Veradero. She looked so frail and so ladylike in her white pantsuit and perfectly set white hair.

On the road to the hotel we passed hard-scrabble villages with pink and yellow cinderblock houses and clothelines flapping in the breeze. We drove along the edge of ocean, with plumes of white froth rising against rocky shores.

A rather sardonic “tour guide” told us where to get the best cigars and rum, what Cubans make per month ($20-$30), and the problems created by the double currency – one for tourists (Convertible Pesos) and one for Cubans (Cuban Pesos), which created a class society in a country committed to socialism. In Cuba he told us, everyone, professionals and non-professionals, make the same wage.

He took a pause, and then said to us, Many of the waiters and maids you will see at your hotel are lawyers, teachers, economists. They can make more with tips from convertible pesos than they ever will in their professional jobs. I. Myself. Am. A. Professor. Of. Linguistics. he said. Don’t. Forget. To. Tip. As. You. Leave. The. Bus.

The hotel, a rambling compound of pastel-coloured three-story condo-like buildings, was filled with Canadian tourists strolling about in shorts, sarongs, and sundresses. We could hear Newfoundland accents, Quebecois joual, and the broad vowels of prairie speech. There was a slight mocking tone to their voices; I could overhear them complaining about the food in the buffet, or laughing at the outdated cars.

I was slightly in shock. The warm Caribbean air caressed my skin. I yearned to put on my sundress. I’d never done anything like this before. For an artist/academic like me, a vacation means getting funding to go to a conference or film festival in Vancouver, or London Ontario, or Berlin, and then nervously taking a couple of days off after presenting a paper or screening a film. Academics and artists work pretty much all the time. We don’t know how to do vacation. Apprehensive, I fingered the article on affect theory I had stowed in my purse.

Where were we? Canada? Cuba? Manitoba?

Heads spinning, we immediately went to the bar and ordered mojitos.

[More on food, Cuba and vacations in the next post…]

Mojito recipe
(serves one)

1.25 oz white rum
10-12 mint leaves
1 tbsp sugar
0.5 oz lime juice
2 oz soda water
splash angostura bitters (optional)

Place mint leaves in bottom of glass. Add crushed ice, rum, sugar, and lime juice, and muddle. Add soda water and garnish with mint leaves. Splash bitters over top.


  1. Those drinks looks so good and they are driving me crazy because I can’t drink because I’m on migraine medication. Must not think about Mojitos….

  2. hello,you articles are so cool,i really like it very much.I am also a chinese food amateur and have collected many chinese food recipes in my site with many pictures.If you like it,please feel free to contact me,’cause I wanna make friend with you:)

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