April 12, 2014 by vivalafiona
We had a huge Christmas Day yesterday, whilst most of Cuba was conducting business as usual. It is not a public holiday here, although the schools did close on the 20th December and don’t reopen until 3rd January. Most Cubans, if they do celebrate Navidad have a family dinner on Christmas Eve and I noted that many of the local restaurants were full of families on Tuesday night. Surprisingly the shops sell lots of Christmas decorations and even flashing lights for trees. The local cathedral has a huge flashing star on top of its tower and there are a few nativity scenes on display.
Osiel slaughtered the pig at 6.30 am whilst I was walking up the hill to the television tower. As I climbed I was reminiscing about my early morning Christmas Day swims at Manly before loading up the car with gifts and cherries to go to Mum’s for Christmas turkey and pudding with the family. I returned to find a skinned pig, no blood stains and liver cooking on the open fire. (I must tell you pigs liver is very good with mango chutney and a glass of red). We then spent most of the morning riding around Trinidad in search of cabbage and other salad items. Sadly Trinidad was all out of cabbage so there was no coleslaw served with the meal. Cubans are more interested in meat and dessert anyway but I was hankering for some good Aussie salads to go with our avocados.
Everyone arrived in the middle of the day, Osiels parents and daughters, the family from La Boca (local fishing village), friends of Osiels who are teachers and hence on holiday, and later in the day other extended family and friends. The kids feasted on pop corn and home made lemonade ice blocks (duro frio they call them here which literally translates into hard cold), whilst the adults snacked on guacamole and dry biscuits, there being no carrots, zucchini or celery, until the pig was ready.
Osiel invited a Chinese tourist, he found outside photographing our mango trees, in for a beer. Zhu spoke fluent English and told us he was a professional photographer who had been on assignment in Mexico for a travel magazine when he decided to pop across to Cuba. He stayed for a few hours photographing our Cuban family fiesta, listening to Osiel play guitar, drinking beer and sharing his fried pig fat/skin with us (chicharon). Apparently this is a popular snack food in China too. He took some fabulous photos and a video which he plans to put on u-tube in China.
We have been minding an old horse drawn carriage, which is used to transport tourists around town, for a few weeks. The owner is married to one of Osiel’s cousins. He arrived with his grandfather and two horses to drive the family back to La Boca at the end of the day. Osiel, his cousin and I took the kids for horse rides through the banana trees, the horses taking special care not to step on our tomato plants. Our dogs and the cat were not sure if they liked sharing the garden (patio) with these much bigger four legged creatures. The bonus for them was that horses don’t eat chicken or pig.
Santa Claus came to Casa de los Mangos and the biggest hit was the bubble making plastic pistol which was given to 2 year old Alain. You can see from one of the attached photo’s the utter glee and squeals of delight the sight of the impossible to catch bubbles produced from the kids. Erika was particularly pleased with her lip gloss and her first cookbook and Nylas fluorescent, sparkling skipping rope was a big hit with all the girls (aunts included).
The problem with cooking a pig, stuffed with 2 chickens, on the spit is that it is a very slow cooking process. Lunch was not ready until 4.30pm. The roasted meat and crackling, green salad and avocado was quickly devoured, with the last of my mango chutney, to hasten the arrival of the much awaited dessert. Most partaking in all that was on offer: egg flan, cake, mango icecream and candied orange/grapefruit slices which is traditionally served with cheese.
As the sun was setting the family returned home with doggy bags, in either horse and cart, bicycle taxi or on foot. Osiel and I sat with our very well fed animals (Tigre the cat and Bunyip the dog) who are now cautious friends, under the stars sipping a beer, planning where the outdoor lighting will go. In winter in Cuba the sun sets early and quickly. We could have fed another 20 people with the amount of food we had and I was pleased at the thought that I would not need to do much cooking for the next few days. Isn’t that one of the best things about Christmas, the leftover cold meats and dessert.
Today it’s back to work. Cuban doesn’t celebrate Boxing Day either. The granite floors in the guest/tourist accommodation are currently being professionally cleaned so they sparkle once again and we are hoping the same machine will be able to remove some of the red dirt stains on our ceramic floors. Our trusty builders are continuing work on the verandah floor preparing to lay the ceramic tiles we hope will arrive tomorrow from Camaguey. We are also expecting an electrician tomorrow to help Osiel, who has some electrical training, install the colonial style lanterns we bought from a local small business. We had planned on all of this being finished for our Christmas Day feast but it is best not to set deadlines in Cuba if you want to avoid angst and disappointment. Something I am learning the hard way. Poco en poco con calma. Little by little with calm.
New Years Eve will be spent with Osiels cousin, our former builder, devouring yet another roast pig reared in the mountains outside Trinidad. I am hoping we will have an opportunity to also enjoy some music and dancing at Casa de la Musica and watch the fireworks which closely resemble the neighbourhood fireworks display we enjoyed back in the 70’ as opposed to the Sydney Harbour extravaganza.
Felicidades to you and all the family. Happy New Year.
P.S Osiel was told yesterday that he is one of the finalists in the Trinidad 500th Anniversary International Song Competition. He will be performing during the two week celebrations.