14ymedio, Viñales, 28 August 2016 — The tastes of visitors shape the menu of the restaurants located in tourist areas of the country. While menus targeted to Cuban customers prioritize pork, fried foods and the always-popular pizzas, places with a more foreign clientele focus on the Mediterranean diet and vegetarian dishes.
In the town of Viñales, in Pinar del Rio, the Aubergine Restaurant is a clear example of how demand affects culinary options. The tourists come to the place looking for salads, plates with a predominance of vegetables and natural juices. The proprietors found this market niche in the midst of an area where the majority of private restaurants offer seafood and meat.
Tomatoes, avocado, yucca, rice pilaf and eggplant rule the premises, a few yards from a state restaurant which does not reach beyond fried chicken and steak. Experimentation and gastronomic innovation, in these parts, belongs to the sector of the self-employed.
At the end of the last century vegetarian restaurants flourished throughout the island in a campaign for a healthier diet that the official press was quick to identify as “Fidel Castro’s idea.” Of those premises, with subsidized prices, none remain and now only the most select places, designed for tourists, put the flavors of the Cuban countryside on their tables.