Los Cubanos se inventan (Cubans invent)
Cubans are the hijos (children) of that great Madre, (mother) necessity. While I’ve not been able to find the exact recipe for their inventiveness I do think it involves a whole lot of imagination, a large dollop of ingenuity, a pinch of Cubano confidence, all simmered in the Caribbean heat.
Resourcefulness permeates every aspect of life here. Need some porch furniture? My neighbour Jorge, whipped up some pretty nice chairs and a table from a couple of pallets and a lick of white paint. Ta dah! As I don’t have a porch, I use his space frequently for hanging out with my girlfriends. Jorge accepts payment for the ‘rental’ in dulces (sweet things) and coffee.
To keep a car running whether it’s an Almendron (old American car) or a ‘modern’ Lada from the Soviet era, any Cuban lucky enough to have a car is a master at invention. Held together with recycled or adapted car parts, along with a wing and a prayer these vehicles are mechanical miracles.
Inventing also applies to selecting a name for your baby. With a competitive desire to be unique, Cubans frequently concoct first names. So you might get Yaneymi, a merging of Yanet and Mijail, or Leydi, a Cubanised version of the word “Lady”.
An altogether more serious and life-changing example of Cuban invention is the drug Heberprot-P, developed by the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB). Faced with a lack of basic drugs as a direct consequence of the US blocade, the development of propriety medicines has been a necessity. And this drug for the treatment of diabetic ulcers is nothing short of a breakthrough. Click here to watch a short video about Heverprot-P.
Despite the much-lauded ability to invent, it struck me as strange then that Cubans are not very inventive when it comes to food. A recent visitor to this blog, a Cuban now living in Canada, sums it up precisely; “being so isolated in Cuba makes people nervous about trying new things, the scarcity of food in general, couple that with the fact the most of us are not very open-minded and can be very stubborn and you get the same food over and over”.
My skills in the invention department were not all that bad before coming to Cuba, I have to admit. I learned them from my Dutch grandparents who lived through the war. My Opa (grandfather) taught me never to throw anything out, to repair or recycle and to generally be inventive. I have definitely been influenced by his McGyver tendencies. But my invention skills are being really honed in the food department in Cuba.
So in spirit of invention I’ve been trying to make ice cream using ingredients available here. Yes I know my last post was about ice cream and the best place to buy it in Havana, but I wanted to be able to create a creamy concoction at home, mainly for midnight snack purposes. Essential after a night on the tiles. Click here to listen to more about late night snacking Cuban style!
However in terms of ice cream, getting your hands on milk is a tricky task. And I’ve never even heard of cream here! So I needed to be pretty ingenious to make ice cream, needless to say I love a challenge. But when pondering the ice cream making dilemma I remembered a cross between a sherbet and ice cream that I had in Maui, Hawaii years ago. I couldn’t Google the recipe (limited access and dial-up speed internet before you ask!) so I had to play around a bit with what I recalled from memory. And it turns out it’s VERY simple. So here you go a recipe for three ingredient ice cream that can be made using easily sourced Cuban ingredients.
Recipe notes If you have an ice cream maker this recipe is child’s play. Stick all the ingredients in the machine and follow the manufactures instructions! Do let me know how it works out in the machine? – I don’t have one in Cuba so I used the method below.
If you wanted you could make this even more simple, a two ingredient ice cream, just leave out the lime. However, personally I think it needs the acidity of the lime to cut through the sweetness of the other ingredients.
Three ingredient Lime ice cream
- 1 can (330 mls) of lemonade
- 1 can (397 g) of Condensed milk
- Finely grated rind of 2 Limes
- Freshly squeezed juice of 1 Lime
- Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
- Pour into a large freezable plastic container and freeze for 1-2 hours.
- Remove from the freezer and fork through until it’s a creamy texture.
- Freeze again for another 1-2 hours, remove and beat again.
- Repeat at least one more time as it ensures a really creamy textured ice cream.
- Freeze overnight and then it’s ready to serve
- I’m guessing this could keep in the freezer for up to a month. But it’s never lasted more than a few days when I make it!!!
If you’ve never made proper ice cream and indeed if you have, I encourage you to give this invention a try. This simple recipe makes a wonderfully creamy ice cream with just enough tang from the lime to give it a slight sharpness on the tongue. Enjoy!
Other Cuban inventions
Building a train from a bus
A crop spraying machine from scrap metal