Although many people know January 1st as New Years Day, it is also Haitian Independence Day! If you are not familiar with Haiti and its independence story allow me to share a little piece of my ancestors’ history.
Haiti is a country on the western hemisphere of a Caribbean Island known as Hispanola. We share the island with the Hispanic country the Dominican Republic. During the time of colonization Haiti was known as the Pearl of the Antilles. That’s because this colony was a serious money maker for France. Long story short in 1791 the slaves on the island revolted and on January 1st ,1804 Haiti made history by becoming the first successful slave rebellion & first black nation in the Western Hemisphere. You might have briefly read a paragraph or two about it in history class. But did you know that the Haitian revolution was essentially the reason behind the French being broke and the United States being able to do the Louisiana Purchase? Yep!
Anyhoo in order to celebrate the newly freed slaves drank Soup Joumou to commemorate their independence. But what is soup Joumou? That’s a good question because up until last year I had no idea what Soup Jumou was made up of. The highlight ingredient in Soup Joumou is squash. It also has a lot of other ingredients: beef chunks, carrots, cabbage, turnips, potatoes, etc, just to name a few.
This year I decided to become a real Haitian and make Soup Joumou to celebrate the New Year and Independence day. The first thing I had to do is ask my godmother and aunty how do I make the soup. Her response was “ Oh its so easy to make, first you ……” (Then she goes on to give me slightly complicated instructions). After speaking to other friends and reading other blogs it seems like this is a commonality with Haitian moms giving recipe tips.
So I went online and looked up a couple of recipes and went food shopping. This experience was something else. I also get a mixture of feelings when grocery shopping for cultural foods. I almost always get a panic attack when I can’t find a main ingredient needed. But it also helps me to check my American privilege. Looking for the ingredients put me in the shoes of many Haitian immigrants. I imagined how they must of felt in a new country trying these ingredients and not being able to.
Soup Joumou is essentially either a two day or all day process.
The core of most Haitian dishes is “epis” which is the equivalent of “sofrito” or marinade. Epis consists of a bunch of herbs and spices blended together.
The beef chunks need to be marinade for at least four hours. Although its better left to marinate overnight.
There’s a series of steps: chopping of vegetables, pureeing of squash, stirring and tasting.
Then finally the eating. While cooking the soup I realized that this is a dish truly filled with love because it is a process to make. I felt connected to my parents and their parents and my ancestors.
Since this was my first time making the soup I don’t quite have a recipe to put up yet. Instead, I’ll just spend time tweaking it until its share worthy!
Is there a recipe from your family’s culture that you’ve tried making for the first time? What was that like?
Until next time,