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Food in Cuba: The Pursuit of a Decent Meal
Hanna Garth


Food in Cuba follows Cuban families as they struggle to maintain a decent quality of life in Cuba's faltering, post-Soviet welfare state by specifically looking at the social and emotional dimensions of shifts in access to food.

Based on extensive fieldwork with families in Santiago de Cuba, the island's second largest city, Hanna Garth examines Cuban families' attempts to acquire and assemble "a decent meal," unraveling the layers of household dynamics, community interactions, and individual reflections on everyday life in today's Cuba. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and the subsequent loss of its most significant trade partner, Cuba entered a period of economic hardship. Although trade agreements have significantly improved the quantity and quality of rationed food in Cuba, many Cubans report that they continue to live with food shortages and economic hardship. Garth tells the stories of families that face the daily challenge of acquiring not only enough food, but food that meets local and personal cultural standards. She ultimately argues that these ongoing struggles produce what the Cuban families describe as "a change in character," and that for some, this shifting concept of self and sense of social relation leads to a transformation in society. Food in Cuba shows how the practices of acquisition and the politics of adequacy are intricately linked to the local moral stances on what it means to be a good person, family member, community member, and ultimately, a good Cuban.


Hanna Garth is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, San Diego.


"Garth accessibly addresses important theoretical and political debates while anchoring every insight in rich ethnographic detail. She achieves a sympathetic and nuanced portrait of people who struggle more than they should for the basic elements of life while still engaging in complex social critique and political analysis and acts of solidarity, as well as, against the odds, finding ways to flourish." --Alyshia GálvezAmerican Anthropology

"This is an ethnography rich with thick description about the politics of adequacy as seen through the lens of household food acquisition.... Food in Cuba opens our eyes to all that people go through to acquire the foods they desire." --Luis Alexis Rodríguez-Cruz, Food, Culture & Society

"Garth offers a literary masterclass in how the analysis of food can help us understand social relations while the analysis of social relations can help us understand food." --Emily Yates-DoerrSociety for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition

Stanford University Press  /  January 07, 2020

0.8" H x 9.0" L x 6.0" W (0.85 lbs) 232 pages