We launch Global Munch, our homage to documenting international and Somali weekly food recipes during Black History Month.
First up and taken from our Scarf magazine 2012 edition (Vol. 1 – Issue 3) is the Haitian MacArthur fellow, Edwidge Danticat who contributed a gorgeous recipe and seder from her homeland that links slavery, freedom and independence in a way that acknowledges the horrors of the past but looks optimistically towards the future.
Edwidge Danticat is one of the most celebrated novelist of her generation. In 2009, she won the MacArthur Genius Grant in her latest book, ‘Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work‘ [Vintage Contemporaries] has been lauded by The New York Times, The New Yorker and writer, Dave Eggers, who called it ‘The most powerful book I’ve read in years.’ In the spirit of culture exchange, we asked Edwidge to share her favourite recipe from Haiti and why it means so much to her.
Haitians eat soup joumou most on the first of the year, on the anniversary of Haitian Independence day. On that day almost every Haitian family who can afford to, will cook up a bowl of pumpkin soup. Soup joumou is also served in some households and in many Haitian restaurants on Sundays. My recipe is not a master chef ’s. It is a very basic one. Everyone makes soup joumou differently. I make a vegetable-heavy vegan version.
EDWIDGE’S VEGAN SOUP JOUMOU RECIPE
- 1 pumpkin between 2 and 3 pounds, peel and cut it into small pieces.
- 1 pound of cabbage, slice and chop it.
- 4 carrots, peel and slice them.
- 3 stalks celery, slice and cut them.
- 1 large onion, cut into small pieces. If you prefer, you can cut it across, ribbon like.
- 5 potatoes, peel them and cut them into cubes.
- 2 turnips, peel and cut them into cubes if you like.
- 1 lime cut in half and squeezed for as much juice as you can get from it.
- 1/4 pound of macaroni. In Haiti we call it vemisèl, but I have used different kinds of vegan pasta, including bow-shaped. Some folks use spaghetti, whatever kind of pasta you can find is fine, but the pasta should not overwhelm the soup, so if you are using spaghetti, for example, make sure it is broken into small pieces.
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed or cut into small pieces.
- 1 sprig of thyme.
- 1 sprig of parsley
- 2 teaspoon of salt
- 2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper.
Use a stockpot if possible. Bring water to a boil, add pumpkin. Once the pumpkin is cooked, puree it and add the puree back in the pot. Add more water if necessary for the consistency you desire. Add the hard vegetables now: carrots, potatoes, turnip cubes, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until cooked. Add cabbage, pasta and let it simmer until cooked. Add thyme, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper until you are satisfied with the taste. Add lime and stir in. Add the scotch bonnet at the last minute.
It is always an adventure in Haitian families to see who ends up with the scotch bonnet at the dinner-table. That is usually the person reaching for the water at ninety miles per hour. If you want just the flavour and not the heat, make sure you take out
the now-wilted scotch bonnet before you serve the soup. Turn off the heat and allow soup to sit in covered pot until ready to serve with Haitian bread when possible, but if Haitian bread is not available, a baguette or a similar type of bread will do.
Seder for Soup Joumou
Our ancestors had been forced to abandon babies, parents, with both feet nearly in the grave. They had spent days under the sweltering sun, which was made all the more searing by rays bouncing off the boiling sea. Some had walked off the ships in
the middle of the night, seduced by freedom and the phosphorescence of the evening sea. They had sunk into the water whispering, shouting, Ayibobo or Praise God. When they landed, many had dropped themselves on the sand, rolling around until a grainy layer of gray covered them.
Some picked up hard bitter sea grapes that had been scattered by the tide and quickly bit into them. Others gathered seashells and placed them between their teeth, as though they were jewellers evaluating gold. The world was still spinning as it had on the boat. They kept their backs to the sea, which it seemed to them had become one with the sky. No matter where they were on the new land, however, they kept their eyes peeled for white faces. They kept their eyes peeled to the past but also the future. They dreamed of shelter, food. They dreamed what they left behind, but they also imagined us, who lay ahead. They envisioned us into existence. They loved us. It is their love that brought us here. It is their love that keeps us here. We are the fruit of their struggles.
And though it would not come for centuries, they imagined this day when we would gather at different points across different lands and the guns pressed against our temples would be gone, and the chains on our arms and legs would be shattered, and our muffled screams would become a roar and we would raise our hands under whatever sky we found ourselves and we would call both the names we know and do not know as we celebrate our freedom. And we would enjoy the fruits of the lands, sunset-tinged carrots and squash and grass-green celery, the flesh and bones of bulls. And we would add our own touches to that meal, whatever the new harvest would produce, but we would always eat this meal, drink this soup, to celebrate our liberty, to erase the ache of hunger in the bellies from which we’ve sprung.
We drink this soup on the first of the year as a celebration of new beginnings, when it is said that whatever you do on that day will be replicated for the rest of the year. So if we eat the fruits of the land during the first day of the year, the day we celebrate the end of our oppression, then hopefully we will always have something to eat, from our own sweat, from our own blood, and this painful journey across the seas will be a memory that inspires us to live, for our ancestors, for our children, and for ourselves