Southern China has always had a tradition of dining on dogs—people from other parts of the country even joke that Southerners will eat anything with legs but the dinner table. But despite becoming more prosperous in the 1990s, Yulin has maintained the unique tradition of holding a canine banquet every summer.
My Long Search for Beef in Cuba
n Cuba, items that are difficult or impossible to purchase are considered perdido, meaning lost. At the time of my arrival in Havana this summer, two of the most pressing perdido goods are toilet paper and beer. Visitors can still find these items in their hotels, but for Cubans, they’ve gone missing. Perdido. Eleven million people on an island with a toilet-paper shortage. Other unobtainables include soap, pens, smartphones, and credit cards—not that any American credit cards work here, either. The internet is also perdido: Only 3 to 4 percent of the population has access to the web. But of all the perdido things Cubans can’t get a hold of, the strangest—and most taboo—is beef.
Every person I’ve spoken to in Havana assures me that it is a greater crime here to slaughter a cow than it is to slaughter a person. All cows, they add, are property of the state. When caught cooking illicit beef, Cubans have even been known to commit suicide rather than face incarceration. Why is beef so precious to this country’s communist dictatorship? I’ve come here to find out. The answer, I suspect, must have something to do with endemic hunger and the desperation of continually fighting for survival. Or perhaps it’s an anomalous legislative side effect to five and a half decades of revolutionary idealism and trade embargoes, the sort of skewed reasoning that arises among mind-sets capable of ordering the execution of those with differing views.
There’s more marbling to this story, however. The last time I traveled to Cuba, almost ten years ago, I’d been advised not to eat any beef. Locals told me that the beef served in restaurants came from the United States, and that it was of terrible quality. Some warned that it was contaminated; others said it was D-grade utility meat, or “cutter” beef, commonly used for dog food in North America.
Although I steered clear of any ropa vieja that crossed my path, it seemed unlikely that the US would be selling beef to Cuba, given the trade embargo that has existed between the two nations for the past 54 years. But since the American government started authorizing agricultural exports to Cuba in 2000, the island has brought in a staggering $4.7 billion worth of US-produced food, almost all of it by payments of cash in advance. The purpose of an embargo is to isolate and weaken the survival mechanisms of an enemy state through commercial policy. In this case, America is profiteering by feeding Cuba’s citizens. Few people realize it, but around one quarter to one third of Cuban food imports currently come from the USA.
By now, you’ve seen Mr. Wonderful’s how-to video as he makes his childhood favorite, borek, with his aunt. Now it’s time to make it on your own with this illustrated guide. You’re welcome.
Photos by Natalia Mantini and styling by Miyako Bellizzi.
Watch Action Bronson take us on one of the most unreal, out of bounds New York City food tours that’s ever been committed on film.
Drinking vinegars—or “shrubs”—are quietly coming back into fashion, and will, as well as doing your gut some good, get you ever-so-slightly pissed.
The kitchen staff at the Bab Al-Salama IDP camp make use of what limited resources are available to feed thousands of Syrians displaced by war.
ICYMI: I wrote a piece for VICE about fertilizing some plants with my menstrual blood and it kinda pissed off a lot of people. It also marks my highest-paid published piece to date, so. Grab you a copy at yr local American Apparel or other fine outlets…? Also! I’m getting settled in Atlanta and back online. Hi.
Also, my good friend Joey Prince shot for the story and you should really follow his awesome work via Instagram.
I Fertilized Lettuce With My Period Blood, Then Made a Salad
In college, a friend who didn’t shave her armpits lent me her copy of Inga Muscio’s feminist treatise Cunt: A Declaration of Independence. Paging through it instantly gave me a ton of great ideas, like supporting female-run businesses and LGBT rights and checking out my vagina with a compact mirror. Then there were some I wasn’t immediately sold on, like abortion via reflexology and, more specifically, using menstrual blood as plant fertilizer.
The period-blood-fertilizer reference is buried among descriptions of alternative feminine-care products: “You can squeeze the blood out into a jar, fill it with water, and feed it to your houseplants, who… [a friend] assured me, ‘absolutely adore the stuff.’” Shocked, I googled the trend and, sure enough, found a few green-living and apocalypse-prep websites supporting the idea of gardening with the crimson wave.
Blood contains three primary plant macronutrients—nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Plants demand these in large amounts so they can actually survive or whatever. The granddaddy of the bloody nutrients, though, is nitrogen, which helps boost plants’ overall luster and growth. So, as a poor gardener and menstrual-cup enthusiast, I decided to collect my next cycle to help grow some plants.
From the Flavor Aid (not Kool-Aid) at Jonestown to Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s fat-shaming sermons, cults have a history of using food as one of their many tools of control.