• Cuba;
  • food security;
  • culinary traditions;
  • everyday practices;
  • state power

Cuba has had a nationalized food rationing system since 1962, and has been lauded for exemplary food security innovations in the face of national financial hardship. Decreases in food and agricultural related importations after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 limited the amount of food provided in the monthly rations, forcing individuals to acquire increasing amounts of their food through other means. This article reveals the complexities Cubans face when attempting to access foods in Santiago de Cuba. This project examines how Cubans experience their food system, their struggles to maintain food traditions despite the low availability of ingredients, and how people use and relate to Cuba's food provisioning system. In this article two memories of past periods of abundance are juxtaposed to show the different ways in which individuals interpret food security. The analysis of semistructured interviews, community mapping, and participant-observation reveal the ways in which residents of Santiago de Cuba orient to their present situation through memories of past periods when foods were more available and more easily accessible.