Rescuing bread

Panadería. (14ymedio)
Among the many businesses that have flourished since the recent relaxations for self-employment, there are not many bakeries. (14ymedio)

Eliot’s Bakery dawned this Friday with the kneading blade broken and a line of people waiting to buy a baguette or a bagel. Eliot’s brother hurried over to fix the broken blade, because, “You can’t have a day with no sales, the loss is tremendous,” says the concerned baker.

This self-employed worker has opened a unique business in Havana’s Timba neighborhood, offering a great variety of baked goods. Every day that he manages to overcome the high prices of raw material and the infrastructure problems, he counts as an accomplishment.

Among the many businesses that have flourished since the recent relaxations in self-employment, there are not many bakeries. Given that there are growing complaints about the poor quality of this product in the rationed market, it is surprising that daring Cuban entrepreneurs haven’t set out to knead and bake for every taste.

Very close to Colon Street, in one of the buildings known as “pastorita” on Bellavista Street, a few weeks ago a poster appeared announcing wonderful breads in a huge freshly printed graphic. In a ground floor apartment a simple wooden shelf has been installed to display the products. The bakery’s strong point is bread, but there are also  panetelas, cakes and other fine desserts.

A bag of 15 large rolls costs 20 Cuban pesos and they even have sesame seeds. The word has passed among the neighbors and now they ask for special order breads that live only in the memories of some of the oldest people. From the early hours of the morning there is an unmistakable aroma of loaves slowly baking in the oven.

Every day that he manages to overcome the high prices of raw material and the infrastructure problems, he counts as an accomplishment.

The place also offers products of a more standard size that cost a peso each, as well as hotdog buns and others shaped like croissants. Eliot doesn’t need to go out hawking his wares. Sitting on the balcony of his house, he serves all those who come looking for a taste or texture other than the insipid bread from the State bakeries.

A few years ago he tried to open a barbershop in the apartment courtyard, but it didn’t go well. The thing ended up at the police station and they confiscated what little he had acquired to start his business. A pair of old barber chairs were loaded onto a truck and, in the end, he even spent a long time at the station, having lost his cool with the big guys dressed in blue.

Luckily, life smiles on him now. The mothers of the area can count on getting snacks for their kids, and the owners of nearby cafes wake up at dawn to get a good supply that they later sell as snacks and sandwiches. Briseida, a retired woman who collected her pension this morning, waits for the broken blade to be returned. “Today I’m going to give myself the taste of some good bread,” she says.

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