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.