18 April 2021
Cooking can be tricky when you can not find the ingredients you normally use to make a meal. Many people face that very problem in Cuba, where the COVID-19 crisis has worsened food shortages in the country.
But now, they can find help just a computer link away on the Facebook page "Recipes from the Heart." Cuban Yuliet Colón is one of the page creators.
Colón guides Cubans on how to use the foods available to them to make the meals they love. She can help users make a sweet treat with the eggs they happen to find, or replace the pork called for in a recipe with whatever meat is at the market. She even knows how to substitute beans in Cuban rice dishes with peanuts.
Recipes from the Heart shares information on how Cubans can cook the foods they are likely to find at the market or through a government program.
"I love Master Chef Spain, but where do I get liquid nitrogen in this country?" joked Colón. Liquid nitrogen is used to make special ice cream on the Master Chef Spain television show.
Colón is a 39-year-old mother of two. She and other cooks launched the Facebook page in June. It now has more than 12,000 members, many of them in Cuba. Cubans are just starting to use social media due to improved internet speeds.
COVID-19 stopped people from visiting Cuba, which badly damaged the economy. Former President Donald Trump also increased sanctions on the country. Now, there are food shortages. The gross domestic product decreased by 11 percent in 2020.
Long lines became normal last year. The year 2021 opened with government economic reforms that effectively raised both prices and pay, but not at the same rate.
Colón last week visited a food store and stood in line for 40 minutes. She was finally able to buy a few vegetables.
She used them to cook a food she called "Cuban-style pisto manchego." It is mostly made with vegetables. She received a lot of praise from her Facebook group.
These days, things every Cuban needs come and go without warning. One day there is toothpaste, then it disappears. Another day there is soap.
Different kinds of food appear and disappear as well.
Sometimes potato disappears, prompting Cubans to turn to yucca, another root vegetable.
Recipes from the Heart has become a home for ideas on how to cook chicken when it is the only meat in the store.
"There are a lot of shortages", said Colón in the small kitchen of her house. She is preparing her "pisto manchego." She photographs her cooking and then uploads the images.
She added a bit of fresh herbs she took from a relative's small garden.
She likes to make tasty sweet things, but explains that it is hard to find the needed eggs and milk.
The internet has led to an increase in food services including cooking and transporting meals. Cubans can share information on WhatsApp or Twitter about what stores have food or other goods.
Such social media sites are also influencing government officials to be accountable. For example, a government factory recently provided a frozen food that sometimes exploded during cooking. Many cooks protested about the problem online. So the government was forced to provide answers to the Cuban press.
Colón also uses the internet to talk to her mother, who helps pay for its cost. And, she often adds a few family stories to her recipe posts.
"The kitchen is my happy place," she said.
I'm Susan Shand.
The Associated Press reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
ingredients - n. one of the things that are used to make a food,
sanctions - n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country
gross domestic product – n. the amount of a country's entire earnings
herb – n. a plant or a part of a plant that is used as medicine or to give flavor to food
kitchen – n. a room in which food is cooked
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