La Alternativa

Today’s Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required) has an article on the Cuban equivalent of Martha Stewart, Margarita Gálvez Martinez who writes a column for the Pinar del Rio dioscecan bulletin Vitral and if tough times are coming, SurviveLA would rather have Margarita on our side than Martha. While Martha is out fretting over terry pillows and Halloween cupcakes, Margarita is surviving.

Cuba has faced some very tough years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the loss of trade (oil for sugar) from the former Soviet Union. Gálvez’s advice falls under what Cubans call la alternativa, or alternatives for the luxuries we in the US take for granted. As the Wall Street Journal article notes, Gálvez’s advice has included everything from salad dressing that doubles as hair conditioner, beauty treatments that consist of soaking in bread crumbs and warm milk, a flan made with fruit or vegetables rather than scarce corn starch and eggs, and laundry soap made from the jaboncillo tree. What we like most about Gálvez is that she is a strong proponent of urban gardening, maximizing every available space for food, a contrast to Martha Stewart’s useless pesticide and fertilizer drenched flower gardens. See the the film Power of Community How Cuba Survived Peak Oil for more on Cuba’s inventive urban gardening.

While we hope that the US does not face a Cuban style economic crisis, we at SurviveLA believe that it’s time for la alternativa for other reasons, namely reducing our environmental impact and rampant consumption.

If you speak Spanish, please enjoy Gálvez’s recipe for vinegar made from pineapple rinds or banana peels. There is an recipe in English (not quite the same) here.

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