14ymedio, Havana, June 6, 2022 — It is a culinary maxim that good cooking requires good ingredients. But an article appearing in Granma, the nation’s official Communist Party newspaper, on Sunday contradicts that, blaming the poor quality of Cuban bread on its bakers.
In March the newspaper Fifth of September reported that the declining state of bread sold at rationed stores was due to the “low indicators of quality” of the wheat being used to make it. Granma, however, faults the absence of another ingredient: love.
“It’s true that you have to be a magician to make good bread out of bad wheat but, if you put a little love into it, it won’t be quite so bad,” the article quotes one seasoned baker as saying.
One reporter stood at the entrance to La Especial, a bakery in Ciego de Avila province, to ask customers why they thought the quality of bread keeps getting worse. Of the 250 people who responded to this casual survey, 72% blamed the bakers while 28% said the problem was due to low-quality ingredients (from flour to oil), theft or electrical outages. None of those queried said it was good.
The responses were different at other stores, however. Some customers mentioned bakeries where the product was acceptable while others described bread “you couldn’t even bite into.”
“Most of our workers are very conscientious but I cannot deny that there are some who are not,” says Yoslainay Hernandez Collado, technical and development director at the Ciego de Avila Provincial Food Company.
She maintains it is not worth buying the best quality raw materials if employees do not do their jobs, though she adds that there are disciplinary measures in place to deal with anyone who does not follow the correct procedures. Among these measures are “termination.” Milady Santana Espinosa, the company’s legal consultant, points out that ten disciplinary actions were taken in the province this year.
Eduardo Hernandez Soriano, director of La Ideal, one of the more highly regarded bakeries, admits there are problems with raw materials and working conditions but believes there is a need to “further revolutionize the baker’s soul.” He explains: “If you bring love and wisdom to the manufacturing process, working with what you have, you can turn out good bread of decent quality.”
Granma also mentions equipment problems at places like La Moderna, where the oven and grills are in disrepair, the lighting is poor and the flour is bad. “It is no surprise that flour from domestic producers is not of the best quality compared to imports,” the journal states.
Typically, the machinery is old, suitable spare parts are not available and most stoves have problems of one sort or another, situations which are not conducive to increasing bread supplies.
Privately owned bakeries have also been accused of using stolen raw materials. “You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to realize that some flour and oil is being sold as contraband, which supports the operations of many private bakeries,” the article states. It closes with the words of one baker, which it describes as the “most accurate” assessment: “Working with what we have, we can achieve better bread, using the technology at hand and putting love, a lot of love, into the work so that the bread can be eaten with pleasure.”
Cubans are entitled to eighty grams of rationed bread a day but, if current conditions continue, things will get even worse, not only in Ciego de Avila and Cienfuegos, but in all the other provinces as well, a result of the global grain crisis caused by the war in Ukraine.
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