To make the post shorter, this is part 1 of a longer story. Read part 2 here.
If I really think about it, lobster basically tastes like a fancy shrimp.
Back in Riyadh, a piece of lobster the mere size of my thumb was part of a € 70 six course meal I never would have gone for myself, had it not been upon an invitation which would have been rude to refuse. In Havana, this guilty pleasure was all mine for about 20 dollars, a side of rice with beans and dessert included. The luxurious reputation of the lobster put aside, it was not the taste of the shellfish itself that knocked my socks off until this day, but the sauce, a symphony of cream, white wine and coffee. To put it in the words of John Green: had this sauce suddenly become a person, I would have taken it to Las Vegas immediately and married it.° Should I ever manage to reverse engineer this miracle in my own kitchen, the lobster will be no more than a distant memory.
It was at the end of a hot, long day I had started by the National Theater of Cuba, the best spot in my vicinity to find a taxi. Overwhelmed by the choice and the glowing winter sun in the morning, I opted for a small, red Lada parked between elegant vintage Buicks and vehicles that reminded of motorised rickshaws. The appearance of this red monument to Soviet times tricked me into believing in a lower price for a 10 km ride to the Hemingway museum right outside Havana.
The driver however, looking forward to some Cuban Convertible Pesos and appreciating the fact that I wasn’t Cuban, set his first offer at 20 CUC one way, which was an equivalent to $ 20. After some negotiating Juan agreed to a round trip, bringing me to the museum and taking me back to Havana for 25 CUC.
Budgeting in Havana had turned out to be more challenging than I thought it would be. So in a way, this cab ride was a bit like the budget version of riding in the old American cars, a trip back in time. Compared to the American automobile beauties all over town, this red Lada, other than not being American, was also about sixty years old. The absence of seatbelts and the cables swinging back and forth above the rearview mirror, testified to the car’s old age. Like most Cubans, Juan intended to strike up a conversation with me. My answers to his questions about where I was from and how I liked Cuba got lost in the roaring noise of the car’s motor, never reaching their actual destination. Despite its age, the Lada went incredibly fast once we left the city behind us and followed the highway. I felt more dizzy by the minute and was grateful to myself for having skipped breakfast this morning. Once at the entrance to the property of the Villa Vigia, Juan set a timer on his phone to come pick me up in about an hour. As he held his smart phone up to his eyes, a picture of the now late Commander-in-Chief Castro watched me getting out of the car and walking towards Hemingway’s residence.
A couple of hours later, I found myself in Old Havana, taking the lobster off my culinary bucket list, right after I had convinced myself to go for a ride around town in a 1959 Buick before I came across an interesting encounter…
Click here for part 2.