Ropa Vieja, Black Beans and Rice, and Fried Plantain Chips
Ropa Vieja, Black Beans and Rice, and Fried Plantain Chips from a farmhouse restaurant in or near Las Terrazas. My OCD side really wants to Photoshop that glob of sauce out of the picture.

I learned many years ago during my first international trip that I had to get over my squeamishness about germs in my food. I just pray that the grace I say before my meals offers me gastric blessings. At the farmhouse restaurant where we ate in Las Terrazas, I knew something was up when we had to walk through the kitchen to get to the tables. It was one of those kitchens that showed, um, “character” yet suggested that some awesome food was about to be served. Sure enough, the food was excellent. The food was not the only reason, though, that the dining experience was so memorable.

There's a surprise inside of one of these baby bananas.
There’s a surprise inside of one of these baby bananas.

My tablemates reached for the baby bananas as soon as they were placed on the table. The person to my left peeled her banana and….out crawled quite a few bugs. She, being the possessor of far more class than I, simply said, “Oh!” and set the banana aside. Either hers was the only banana with bugs in it or everyone else was too deep into the Welcoming Mojitos to notice. All I know is that I was not about to find out for myself. I am not a risk taker. I’ve yet to have eaten a banana since that day.

Just like most of the other restaurants we visited, this one was open-air. By this point in our trip, I’d gotten used to the flies and had learned to get all of the food that I wanted off the platter from the start because (for me) there was no going back  once the flies arrived. What I hadn’t gotten use to was…..

“How could you?!?!?!”

I saw some nearby movement out of the corner of my eye. Imagine my surprise when I saw this little fella (or gal) looking at me. Did I mention that chicken was one of the things we were being served? I’m not a “meet your meat” kinda girl. We were told that the chickens roaming around our table were not chickens that would be served as food.  Still this was a problem. I just….couldn’t. A few people had the bright idea to toss crumbs to the critter, so of course, his/her family joined in the fun. (FYI- chickens are a lot like stray cats and dogs. Once you feed them….)

I'm sure there's a code violation going on.
I’m sure there’s a code violation going on.

After our meal, as we headed to the bus, I looked back and saw that Chicky was glad that we were gone.

Fresh chicken on the table
Fresh chicken on the table

It was at this point that I was trying to remember if our utensils were served rolled up in napkins or directly on the table. I contemplated the notion that they probably disinfect the tables between customers. Then I remembered seeing the dish rack:

When you serve food this good, you don't worry about germs.
When you serve food this good, you don’t worry about germs.

No worries. I had said my grace before eating. My stomach and intestines were divinely protected. You know it’s good food when I tell you that I would go back the next time I traveled to Cuba.

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