Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Haitian Freedom Soup: The Pumpkin Soup of Haiti

For over one hundred years, the French controlled Haiti, taking advantage of the many natural resources and growing conditions the land had to offer. In order to farm massive amounts of sugar, coffee, cotton and indigo on their plantations, the French imported nearly one million slaves from Africa. Today a major percentage of Haiti’s population traces their ancestry to the African slaves.
The French plantation owners treated the slaves terribly, offering them only the minimum of what they needed to survive. While the slaves dined on a thin bread soup, the plantation owners enjoyed a rich and hearty pumpkin soup. In fact, the slaves were forbidden to eat the soup because it was considered too fancy for the simple people.
After more than one hundred years, the people of Haiti were fed up with the French. They began fighting back in 1791 and after a long battle won their independence! What was one of the first things they did following their victory? They celebrated by eating pumpkin soup! To this day, pumpkin soup is served in millions of homes every year on January 1 as a reminder of Haitian independence.
  • 2 pounds fresh pumpkin (2 cups mashed)
  • 10 cups water, plus more if needed
  • 1 13.5-ounce can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 jalapeño or serrano pepper
  • 10 whole cloves
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 small head green cabbage, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 pound macaroni
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot, add the pumpkin and water, stirring until it reaches an even consistency.
  2. Press cloves halfway into the flesh of the pepper, then add to pumpkin mixture.
  3. Add carrots, turnips, cabbage, nutmeg, lime juice, salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in macaroni, parsley and coconut milk, cover again and simmer gently until pasta is tender and soup is thickened, about 10 minutes more. Add more water to thin the soup if you find it too thick.
  5. Be creative with your presentation. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of crushed pistachios or whatever else you like.
Nicholas Beatty
 is a children’s book author working primarily in multicultural stories. He loves folktales, local legends and history. He finds his inspiration when he travels around the world, and his passion is in sharing those stories with others.

Uncle Bouki and Ti Malice: A Haitian Folktale

This fine tale of Uncle Bouki and Ti Malice is one of many that entertain both young and old alike in Haiti. It seems as if Uncle Bouki is always getting into some kind of trouble… we all know an Uncle Bouki or two, don’t we?
One fine morning, Uncle Bouki was walking down the lane when his stomach began kicking and dancing; he was very hungry! While he rushed home to prepare a meal for himself, he saw a toothless old woman eating alongside the road.
“Mmmm, that looks delicious,” Uncle Bouki said. “What are you eating?” Distracted by the nosey Uncle Bouki, the old woman bit her lip and screamed out, “Ay-yai!”
With no time to lose, Uncle Bouki raced to the market in search of some delicious ay-yai for himself. The poor man was very hungry indeed! But when he arrived at the market and began asking questions, the vendors only laughed at him because ay-yai didn’t exist at all!
“I’m so hungry, I can’t think of anything else,” Uncle Bouki said to Ti Malice when he returned home. “Do you have any ay-yai?”
Ti Malice wanted to teach silly Uncle Bouki a lesson, so he gathered a number of items and placed them in a bag. “Here’s your ay-yai; it’s the best I have.”
Uncle Bouki pulled out an orange from the bag and said, “No, this isn’t what I’m looking for.” Next, he pulled out a pineapple and just shook his head. “No, not this one either.” Finally, he reached into the bag and pulled out a piece of cactus.
“Ay-yai, ay-yai!” screamed Uncle Bouki as the prickly cactus spines poked into his skin. “What did you do that for?” he asked. Ti Malice couldn’t control his laughter and answered, “You asked for some Ay-yai, and that’s just what you got!”

Vodou In Haiti: A Way of Life

Brought to Haiti by slaves who arrived more than three hundred years ago, Vodou means “spirit” in several African languages. Believers recognize a distant creator named Bondye who is detached and unknowable and is represented by many spirits called Loa. Haitians perform rituals in the form of songs, dances and by creating altars in an effort to connect with and please these spirits.
Each of the spirits has his or her own unique personality, so believers of Vodou can choose which Loa they feel most connected to. During ceremonies the Loa are given food and drink in the hope they will offer special advice or words of wisdom.
 Papa Guédé
An example of one of the many Loa celebrated in Vodou is Papa Guédé, believed to be the skeleton of the first man who ever died. His primary role is to help people transition from life to death, but he’s also regarded as a protector of children. If a child is sick, people will pray to Papa Guédé to spare the child’s life.

Nicholas Beatty is a children’s book author working primarily in multicultural stories. He loves folktales, local legends and history. He finds his inspiration when he travels around the world, and his passion is in sharing those stories with others.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Creating A Video for Your Kickstarter Campaign: Editing Your Video


There are very few people who are skilled at every element of the creative process. If you have been gifted with the right brain/left brain skill set, you'll most likely be able to figure out the design, writing, filming, editing, marketing, etc all on your own. Don't be disheartened if you can't do everything. By allowing others to shine, and do what they do best, you'll only look better in the end. Don't be afraid to ask for help! Kickstarter is all about collaboration.

Depending on the camera you used to film with, there will be a number of options available to you for editing. I've used Windows Movie Maker in the past for many quick and easy videos I've put together. I've used iMovie as well with much more success. I've also used Final Cut. Editing takes hours and hours of work, and regardless of the program you use, you'll need to learn how to use the editing program effectively. Spend some time watching tutorials on Youtube because there are many!

Some Notes on the Final Edit

I've seen it all when it comes to Kickstarter videos! You have the non-technologically savvy person who turns on the camera from behind, then walks around in frame to sit down and talk to the camera. I assume this person didn't know how to edit out this material, or maybe they were going for a "behind-the-scenes" appeal? I've seen overly shaky, hand held camera footage that gave me motion sickness. There's no doubt you've seen these less-than-perfect videos as well.

Don't be lazy. If the shot didn't work out, do it again... or be creative in how you make it work. Day number 3 of our video shoot wasn't planned, and we spent the time re-shooting material that wasn't up to parr.

More than anything, be creative and have fun. Don't be afraid to try new techniques, but remember, less is more. We sat with our footage for hours and hours before we decided to try a bleach bypass in final cut. While we lost some of the vibrancy of the illustrations in some shots, what we gained was a vintage feel that worked well with the theme of our book. You'll be surprised what comes about when you take risks.

For more information about our Kickstarter Campaign, The Cultured Chef, check out

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Creating A Video for Your Kickstarter Campaign: The Video Shoot

The Video Shoot

The most important thing about shooting your video is you need to be cool, calm and collected. You don't want to appear stressed out because viewers will pick up on this, but they won't know whether it is due to nervousness or personality. I find it best if you can find someone to help with the actual camera work, that way you can focus on getting your message across. You can still maintain control of the shoot if you like, there is just someone else handling the mechanics of the shoot.

In terms of shooting the video, almost anything these days will do the trick. I've seen successful videos made with iPhones, Flip Video, and iPads. If you have access to higher quality recording devices all the better... most often the quality of your video will be a deciding factor as to whether someone will make a pledge or not.

Be creative in your search to create the best look and feel of your video. Perhaps an up and coming film maker would help you out for a nominal cost. Is there a local university with a video program? Ask around and you might be surprised by what you get. Sometimes letting go and allowing others to do what they do best will be what makes your project outstanding.

I find less is more in terms of scenery. You don't want too much going on in frame because it will detract from what is important. Obviously working shots will include various elements of your trade, but you'll want to try to keep clutter to a minimum.

Don't try to do it all in one day. The shoot for my video project included 3 days of filming, 1 day of recording audio in the studio, and 2 days of editing. If you are filming in multiple locations, you'll want to allow time to coordinate extras, transportation, wardrobe, etc. You'll also want to be relaxed during the process. If that means working for 3 hours one day, and several more hours the next day, all the better.

Look for continuity. I can't tell you how distracting it is sometimes to be watching a video, then all of the sudden the setting changes without explanation. I've seen items on the desk move around from take to take without explanation. You'll also want to pay attention to wardrobe and hairstyle. We had several amazing shots we wanted to use, but we weren't able to because my creative partner let her hair down between takes and the footage was inconsistent. Be very attuned to the smallest details on filming day because you will appreciate the extra care you took when it comes time to do the editing.

Next Step: Editing Your Video

For more information about our Kickstarter Campaign, The Cultured Chef, check out

Monday, August 5, 2013

Creating A Video for Your Kickstarter Campaign: Shooting Location


Viewers are far more likely to respond when they can see you in your natural element. Shots of you working in your studio or office will help develop your story visually. Scenes depicting how your project will impact people prove to be successful as well. If you are an author try shooting some b-roll of you reading your book to an audience. If you are an artist, try getting some footage of you at one of your exhibitions. If you've created a video game, try including scenes of someone actively playing your game.

When it comes to video you'll want to consider two of the most important elements which are audio and lighting. If a video has terrible lighting, as a viewer I will usually tune out because it can be very off-putting. The same goes for audio. You don't want to be in a space with a strong echo, or too much ambient noise (unless it adds to the appeal of your project somehow).

If your studio is not conducive to recording your video, try finding access to a controlled studio where you can recreate the look and feel of your studio. Perhaps a friend or colleague will allow you to use their studio. The most important thing is you want to appear natural and comfortable in your environment.

Next Step: The Day of the Video Shoot

For more information about our Kickstarter Campaign, The Cultured Chef, check out

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Creating A Video for Your Kickstarter Campaign: Research

I watched hours and hours of Kickstarter videos before beginning my project. I was able to determine aspects of each video that I liked and didn't like. I respond well to videos that highlight an individual's personality. I like videos that show positive interaction and a strong rapport between team members. And I am less inclined to watch a video of someone sitting at their desk talking straight to the camera, especially if there wasn't any supportive b-roll and accompanying imagery.

You've all seen the boring videos I'm talking about. Don't let yours be one of them!

Look beyond Kickstarter for video samples as well. Perhaps there are some interesting commercials that have been created in your field. Perhaps there are some videos created by local educational institutions that are interesting and relevant to your project. Check out what advertising agencies are creating. Little by little you'll collect notes that will help you piece together a video that will best represent your project.

Some of my Favorite Kickstarter Videos

Lucy and the Anvil

Mainly Marks: A Letterpress Project


Creating A Script

There are several options for formatting your copy. You can opt for voice-over and that will free you to be more creative with b-roll and imagery, or you can mix interview with accompanying b-roll to tell your story. 

If you opt for voice-over, you will need a polished script. If you opt for interview, you'll need to have well-rehearsed questions and answers prepared ahead of time so when it comes time to do the actual filming you won't sound like a complete idiot.

Next Step: Shooting Location

For more information about our Kickstarter Campaign, The Cultured Chef, check out