14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 7 September 2022 — “Shrimp croquettes at 57 pesos a pound!” Customers who lined up at the doors of the state fish market in San Lázaro, in Central Havana, could barely believe the product that had been put out for sale this Wednesday.
Since crustaceans have been a luxury at Cuban tables for decades and their production — ironically controlled by the State — is mostly destined for export, the supply immediately aroused suspicion.
“This is enchanted shrimp, because you need to know what it is,” a man commented sarcastically as he left the establishment with his pound of croquettes. Another woman preferred to pass by: “At 57 pesos? That’s just broth that they add to the flour. Show some respect!”
She wasn’t wrong, as those who have had the misfortune to taste them can testify. “They’re pure flour; they absorb oil like sponges, and from time to time you have to take things out of your mouth that don’t seem to belong to a shrimp,” says a resident from Central Havana. “They look like water in which they boiled some shrimp heads and at best threw in a little flour to hold it together.”
The woman was given the croquettes by a relative and at first she was excited, but the joy lasted only until as she took a bite: “I ended up giving them to the cats, but even they wouldn’t eat them.”
You don’t need to put them in your mouth to see that they’re not even fit for animals. Their color is grayish brown, similar to the play dough used by preschool children, in part because of the cornstarch they seem to contain.
However, many did buy the croquettes, especially older people. “Aren’t you going to take them?” the clerk insisted to a young man who looked disgusted: “No, thank you.”
Just around the corner, another refusal was presented in the form of a movie scene. From a balcony, an old woman stretched out her arm and threw all the contents of a nylon bag into the street. On the asphalt was what she had rejected categorically and with rage: a dozen shrimp croquettes.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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