Rice for the Eighth Army

And also it is a gift from God that every man may eat and drink, and enjoy the benefit of all his labor. Ecclesiastes 3:13.

The first theater work I saw in my birthplace, was on an improvised stage in a park. It was a Chinese play interpreted by Cuban actors. The plot unfolds around the harvest, collection and delivery of food to the battle front. I was captivated by the charm and magic of it.

Abandoning their nomadic life, humans added agricultural work to their labors. In order to develop successfully, the crops needed water. Thus, people settled where there was an abundant supply of the precious liquid. That’s why ancient civilizations originated around rivers. Next to the Nile in Egypt, the Ganges in India, and the Yangtze in China flourished the three great human cultures.

Our ancestors discovered the nutritive value of rains and planted them. Through a long process of selection they improved the yield and resistance to pests of oats, wheat, corn, barley, rice and rye, which are known as cereals (Ceres, the Latin goddess of agriculture). According to region of the planet that developed one crop or another. In Asia, widespread planting of rice and in America, corn. Therefore, in anthropological studies, food offers valuable information.

In our country, some foods and ways of preparing them come from Spanish tradition. Much of those who came from the Iberian Peninsula are from regions where Islamic culture predominated for centuries. Later, with the addition of Africans, their nutritional habits were added. The geographic position of the Island, between Europe and South America, made it a place of replenishment, so we have recipes from France, English, North America, Yucatan and the Caribbean enriching our cuisine.

In selecting and carefully preparing what we consume we ensure a double happiness: the enjoyment of eating it and of good health through a balanced diet. The balance is given by an equilateral triangle whose sides are the food: energy, construction-repair, and regulation. Good nutrition is very important, the substances are transformed and converted into a constituent part of our body, hence, we are what we eat.

In our geographic environment cuisine based on corn predominates. However, for centuries rice is the basic food of our society. For many people this cereal is symbolic. Without rice on the table, the rest of the food doesn’t seem nourishing and we are psychologically dissatisfied. Even though we eat enough.

In April comments and expression of growing unease among the population began. They had suspended the free sale of rice. Now, since the beginning of the year, different companies no longer offer their workers lunch, instead they receive 15 pesos a day. Now they have to buy, make and bring what they are going to eat in the middle of the day. As this stipend doesn’t correspond to the prices, it’s very hard to satisfy ones basic dietary needs.

Imagine my surprise when I went to the State Agricultural Market at 27th and A in El Vedado in Havana on Saturday, the 29th, and found they were selling ten pounds of rice per person. Going home, after two hours in line under the hot sun, my wife asked me, “What did you get?” I remembered the title of a play I saw during puberty and answered, “Rice for the Eighth Army.”


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