Amira and I checked out some grocery stores and outdoor produce markets in Havana today.
I believe the food scene in Cuba is improving overall, but the current state of eating food is still pretty grim for the average Cuban.
The "supermarkets" we went to were dark and warm (no air conditioning). You check your purse or bag at the door before shopping. Nearly all the food is highly processed packaged junk food, with limited variety.
In the meat section of one larger-than-average store, the options were hot dogs, canned sardines, frozen chicken and a kind of Cuban spam in a can.
The primacy of hot dogs is conspicuous in Havana. Our apartment comes with breakfast, and hot dogs were the main course every morning.
Kenny bought a hot dog on the street and didn't finish it. He said it didn't taste like a hot dog, or even like meat.
We saw meat for sale in an open air market, where the raw meat was hanging there in the breeze. This is pretty common in many countries we've lived in, including Kenya, Morocco and in some Central American countries.
Several of the grocery stores we checked out also sold home appliances, such as small refrigerators, stoves and so on.
After exiting, they check your receipt and grocery bags to make sure you didn't steal anything (like they do at, say, Costco or BestBuy in the United States).
The quality of produce at the open-air market was very low. Amira and I disagreed about what was for sale there; she believes it's left-overs or past-its-prime fruits and veggies sold at discount and I believe it's just what product looks like in such markets. Surprisingly, root vegetables are still covered in soil. Lettuces and other such produce are browning and wilted.
Private farms now exist in Cuba, but I believe the markets we saw in Havana must have been from the government-run collectivized farms. Without competition, marketing or any of the other drivers of competitive improvement in at least the appearance of produce, the appearance of this Cuban produce was clearly neglected.
We've seen people walking around eating corn on the cob, and the corn looks amazing. It's super dark orange-yellow, and looks very good and healthy. However, Amira tried some and it lacked flavor and was very tough to chew through.
The fresh fruit we've eaten was strange, as well. We had fresh pineapple, which lacked flavor as well.
Cuba could grow amazing food, and probably used to. But collectivization of farming has, as it always does, result in barely edible food, for the most part.