Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro made a very rare public appearance on Friday to talk about…Cuban cheese.
The 88-year-old ex-president spoke for more than four hours to 19 “cheese masters” about the quality of Cuban queso at a panel in Guatao, Cuba organized by the Food Industry Ministry’s research institute.
Castro’s public appearance at the cheese convention—his first in three months—came just days after Cuba and the United States announced they were restoring diplomatic relations. Apart from dairy, Castro spoke about “problems affecting the population’s nutrition, like climate change and frequent wars.”
But why make your first public appearance in months to talk about cheese? Because Castro has a bizarre obsession with dairy, that’s why. Novelist and longtime friend of Castro, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, wrote in his essay A Personal Portrait of Fidel,
[pullquote]“One Sunday, letting himself go, [Castro] finished off a good-sized lunch with 18 scoops of ice cream.” [/pullquote]
According to biographer Robert Quirk, Fidel once argued with a French ambassador Andre Voisin about cheese, pushing Voisin to admit that Cuban Camembert was better than French Camembert. The Cuban leader even tried to crossbreed Holsteins and Zebu cows to create a super cow in the ’80s.
Check out a video of Castro’s public appearance at the panel below, and listen as he speaks about cheese, food production, and climate change.