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This blog post was written by Nadege Fleurimond, a caterer, event planner, and event strategist working in the corporate and social sphere in NYC. She is a published author and public speaker. Her recent book, Haiti Uncovered: A Regional Adventure into the Art of Haitian cuisine, is a coffee table culinary travel tour of Haiti’s food and culture. Those who know her label her the Culinary Curator for her love and knowledge of all things culinary and events related. For catered events, planning or speaking engagements, please contact nadege directly via email at Nadegefleurimond@gmail.com 

 

When I decided to write Haiti Uncovered : A Regional Adventure into the Art of Haitian Cuisine, it stemmed from a selfish place of me wanting to know more about the cuisine of where I was born, yet not have the pleasure of being raised. It stemmed from me wanting to broaden my repertoire of culinary knowledge to satisfy both my Haitian and non-Haitian clients in the realm of my catering business. But never did I imagine that, to so many people, it would serve as a connector of holding on to their Haitian identity and childhood. 

In the summer of 2013 upon releasing the book’s initial campaign a young woman called me almost in tears asking for where she could get a copy. I explained to her that the project was still in the developing stages that the book wouldn’t be available be available for about a year. She got so emotional. She went on to explain that her mom passed from such an early age, and she later was raised with a non-Haitian family. Thus for the past few years, she had been trying to recollect the meals that her mom cooked. She explained all her fondest memories of her mom revolved around food in some way and it has always been her dream to cook like her mom and replicate some of those dishes.
The food stories didn’t stop there. Others went on to explain the meals they remembered from their grandma’s kitchens, or visits to certain family members. Stories came from mothers who had been looking for a way to ensure that the Haitian culture was passed to their kids. And to them, food was the way to do that.
It was sort of a surprise, but it wasn’t. As I think about it, even when you look at other cultures, Italians that have been here for years, and Greeks, while they may no longer speak the language or know much about their mother country, food reigns supreme. As long as they eat and cook those meals, their ethnic identity stays in tact…or so they feel. True or not, nothing beats being able to make a meal like your mother or grandmother made it.
I hope, with this book, I can help people achieve at least that.
 
 
 
Twitter Page: NadegeCooks
 
Check out the trailer to Haiti Uncovered: A Regional Adventure into the art of Haitian Cuisine
Your can pre-Order Haiti Uncovered at a discounted rate by visiting her website at
chicken fish
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This blog post is by Martine, Haitian-American author of the blog ” Taste Buds Required.  Please check out her blog at: http://www.tastebudsrequired.com

 

concord

 

I have a confession: I don’t know much about wine. This was mostly a non-issue for me before moving to Seattle because most of my friends and family in NY didn’t know about wine, either. When I moved here, I realized how much serving wine was actually a part of the culture; having people over for dinner generally meant having wine to serve them.

In keeping with my philosophy that what goes in my mouth should taste good, I’m mostly a fan of picking up brands that I think I’ll find tasty. We could argue that knowledge gives you a different sense of what tastes good, and maybe once you’ve had a really good wine it’s hard to go back to bad ones, but ultimately it’s still just a matter of preference (of course, with my limited knowledge, I wasn’t really thinking about the fact that wine can be used to enhance the flavor of a meal). My mother’s preference was for Manischewitz.

I know what you’re likely thinking, and I wouldn’t entirely disagree. I’m sure most wine enthusiasts would be appalled by this, or the fact that it was actually occasionally served to guests at parties (either that or White Zinfandel), but no one ever seemed to be bothered by this. To be fair, wine (or alcohol in general) weren’t standard parts of the meal. They were very occasional and usually precipitated by someone asking if they could bring something. If someone mentioned wine, though, someone was likely breaking out a bottle of Manischewitz.

With that background in mind, I was at a severe disadvantage when I moved. Most of my guests would offer to bring wine, but I like to make sure my guests don’t have to worry about bringing anything which meant I wanted to be the one to buy the wine.

At one of my very first dinner parties here, I did the unthinkable and actually brought out a bottle of White Zinfandel. In my mind, this was the classy wine, and definitely a step up from Manischewitz. The bottle went untouched as several of my guests (who apparently don’t like showing up empty handed) had all decided to bring a bottle of “real” wine. I was thankful (if slightly embarrassed) for the lesson and to my guests for deciding to bring the wine, anyway. I also realized I was going to have to learn a thing or two about wine.

How do you go about picking your wine? I’m betting that most people aren’t taking long wine classes or even doing massive internet searches for how to pair wine with a meal. I still don’t know much, but at least I’m no longer serving the undrinkable. While I’ve also usually got a bottle or two of wine on hand, for the most part, I’ve decided to let my guests bring the wine, and focus on the things that I do know.

 

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The following blog post  was submitted by Mr. Ashley Toussaint: www.brothertoussaint.wordpress.com

social-identity1

 

“Identity Crisis” is an excerpt from a book that I am currently writing. It’s a coming of age story about a Haitian American boy named Johnny Baptiste who grows up in Miami, Florida. The book addresses the common struggles that inner city youth face, such as poverty, crime, peer pressure, school life and identity. “Identity Crisis” exposes the depth of how some Haitian Americans struggle to publicly acknowledge and embrace their Haitian heritage. 

Therefore, as Johnny continues to deny his own heritage, he continues to buy into an idea that he is inferior. Our identity is what makes us unique and authentic. Unfortunately, the stigma of being Haitian will not allow Johnny to embrace who he truly is.
Excerpt from the upcoming book authored by Ashley Toussaint:

“It was a sad sight, but not surprising, at least not to most of the students in the class (95% of the class was Haitian). Ms. Gomez however, was flabbergasted. She could not believe it. She was so excited and eager to share a piece of literature with them, especially sense it was written in their language. But she was sadly mistaken. It was the exact opposite of what she had expected. Instead of excitement, there was lethargy in the room. Instead of pride, there was embarrassment. The looks on their faces and the silence of the classroom infuriated her. And suddenly, the petite soft-spoken Filipino woman ripped them all a “new one”.

“Why don’t you want to read in Creole?!” Why are you ashamed of your culture?!” No one answered. “You should be proud of your heritage, you should be proud of where you are from!” she exclaimed in her Filipino accent. How embarrassing. There stood a 4 foot 6 inch nun from the Philippines teaching a group of black, Haitian-American children about being proud of their race, their heritage and their history. Her words were so precise and simple, yet heavy and sharp. They cut right through Johnny’s heart.

She continued to lecture them about how she had come to America, but was not ashamed of where she was from. By the time she was done with them, they were all humiliated, but for the right reason. “Now who wants to read the third page?” Just about every hand went up. They were strong, proud, black hands of young Haitian-American children, who had never felt like they had a reason to truly be proud. And though Johnny struggled to read his mother’s language, it didn’t bother him. If anything, it was the most beautiful struggle he could ever endure.”

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(disclaimer: forgive me for misspellings — i never learned to properly write in kreyol)

One of the perks of being Haitian, in my opinion, is the delicious cuisine. I mean whats not to love about some lambi (conch) with du riz ak djon-djon (rice made with a haitian dried mushroom) and some bannan pezé ak pikliz (fried plantain with a spicy pickled vegetable condiment) on the side?! I don’t know about you, but my mom makes the best soup joumou (squash soup), and her bouillon is something to be reckoned with — especially when she puts dumboys (dumplings) in it.

a typical haitian meal

a typical haitian meal

Growing up Haitian I had du ris au lait (haitian rice pudding) for breakfast! Do other nationalities experience this deliciousness? I remember my mom used to save ends of bread loaves to make pudding pain (bread pudding) and it always took a while to collect enough bread ends to make the dessert, but it was always worth the wait.

I used to love going to Haitian parties with my parents when I was younger because not only did we kids get to stay up late, but all the goodies were there: du riz ak pois (rice and beans) of course, but also griot (fried, glazed pork), cabrite grillé (grilled goat), poisson fris (fried fish) or poisson boukané (grilled fish), accras (a delightfully crunchy appetizer), and my favorite: PÂTÉS (meat patties)! Man, I could eat pâtés for days (just don’t put any fish filling in mine, please)!! Then we’d wash it all down with some Kola Lacaye (soft drink) — fruit champagne flavor for me, please! and if we were lucky, we could even get to sip a little du vin (usually a sip of some concord grape wine).

haitian patties (yum!)

haitian patties (yum!)

Cola Lacaye (which translates to “soda from home”)

My husband is African-American, and although i was already familiar with a lot of African-American cuisine, it wasn’t until I married that I became fully indoctrinated. He introduced me to cheesy grits, for example. we both cook, so today my family is served both American and Haitian cuisine, but probably mostly American. We’ll sometimes have meals that combine the cultures (like fried chicken and piklies or cornbread and cremasse 🙂 ). My appetite for Haitian cooking hasn’t diminished at all. As an adult today, there are days when I’m in the mood for a particular Haitian dish. Sometimes I just want some sauce pois (bean sauce) on my rice…does that happen to you? Other days i’m in the mood for legumes, or just some oeuf-au-lait, la bouillie (a sort of porridge made from green bananas or corn meal), avoine (porridge). and sometimes I feel like my food could use a dash of piman (haitian hot sauce)? Sometimes, I’m able to just prepare it myself, but other days I long for my mom’s cooking because a particular dish is just not in my repertoire. I have to ask my mom how to make some dishes because not only do I want it, but I want to share it with my family. To date, I have learned to make some, but not all of my favorite Haitian dishes.

cornbread and cremasse

cornbread and cremasse

Sadly, I’m afraid some of the Haitian cuisine know-how has gotten lost in my generation, and probably more will be lost in my children’s generation, but I look forward to one day teaching my kids how to make at least some of what I know. Learning to make pâtés was a rite of passage for me. I cannot wait to someday teach my kids how to make pâtés from scratch by working the dough in four iterations, as my mother taught me. it’s quite a long process, but it’s worth it, and somehow when i’m making them, i feel connected to generations of haitians before me.

haitian cookbook

maybe i should invest in this…

It warms my heart when my kids and my american husband enjoy a Haitian dish. i love that they know what they love and ask for it by it’s french/creole name. when i make pâtés in my house, the whole house celebrates…even my two year old. I am so grateful to be able to share my (and their) culture with them in this way.

Do you sometimes “jones” for a particular haitian food? How do you get your haitian food fix? what culture is reflected in the meals your family eats? Do you frequent Haitian restaurants?

This post was originally written by Ingrid Austin Daniels and published in February 2012.

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This blog entry was submitted by artist Gelan Lambert, an artist Haitian descent, versatile in all art disciplines who has been blessed to have graced the stage with legends.  Learn more about Gelan at http://www.facebook.com/GelanLambertJr

 

haitiusaCornbread & Cremasse!

What a fantastic name for a blog! A homage to two great cultures birthed through Mother Africa!

When I’m homesick for Haitian cuisine, one of the things you’ll find me doing is combing the streets of NYC for Lambi, an aromatic concoction of stewed Creole tomato sauce and conch perched on a bed of pillowy steamed rice. Unabashedly, its my foot stomping Hallelujah go to meal of the day. When its done right, expect a savory festival in your mouth and to be left in a state of culinary euphoria. Legend says that it also has amorous properties; however, that’s another story for another time! Now back to the subject at hand!

After doing some research on cornbread, I discovered that Native Americans created the first
prototype from corn meal. Corn, originally known as maize was the foundation for a plethora of nutritious corn based foods such as corn syrup, corn pudding and succotash, a mixture of beans and corn meal. Subsequently cornbread became an integral part of African American cuisine incorporating various parts of animal scraps, leftovers and root vegetables eventually known as ‘Soul Food’. Symbolic in nature, there is also a direct correlation between traditional African food and Soul Food which speaks to ancestral memory passed down from one generation to the next. On the other hand, Cremasse, is a Haitian beverage that consists of Barbancourt rum, coconut, carnation milk and spices. Usually its imbibed on special occasions and celebrations. In a recent conversation with my mother, I found out that she made Cremasse for her very own wedding! Who knew? My first experience with this special libation was several years ago. I can recall vividly when it touched my palette it reminded me of candy with a strong hint of vanilla ice cream, coconut icy and alcohol. It went down smooth and warmed my entire being. When it ‘Hits’ you, be prepared to R E A L LY feel it!.
I generally don’t take alcohol, but with Cremasse, I always make an exception. LOL!

One of the wondrous things about the digital age is that we can literally immerse ourselves in several cultures at one time, either as a voyeur, an inquiring scholar or student. Technology has made it possible for us to share our thoughts on a variety of different subjects that can be associated with history, art, food or trivia. As an American born Haitian, the journey of investigating my heritage and the constant desire to know more has been my personal mission since my teenage years. This quest has been daunting at times, and even downright frustrating, however the revelations have enlightened and transformed my life beyond words.

Metaphorically, my life in America with my family’s history in Haiti represent my own personal Cornbread and Cremasse. Its poignantly revealed in our collective spirituality, and the way we express ourselves individually and communally as we eat and drink. Each tasty mouthwatering morsel has its own profound story and legacy that speaks to our struggles, triumphs and undeniable beauty and creativity. As a recipient of this great gift, I am more than grateful for the sacrifice of the ancestors, for I always have a personal invitation to remember where I come from through each magnificent cultural meal.

 

Thank You Cornbread & Cremasse for creating this wonderful space.

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ratchetMrJeffDess is a writer, professor, public speaker and emcee of Haitian descent. Born and raised in Jamaica Queens, MrJeffDess stayed in New York City and hit the poetic and leadership scene full force in 2001 at St. John’s University. Along with receiving a B.A. and M.A. in English Literature his career at St. John’s would mark the beginning of a journey towards a variety of literary genres and leadership types.

MrJeffDess is the author of three books of poetry. He has performed, spoken and presented across the nation at various institutions and universities. With over ten years of performing and student affairs experience under his belt MrJeffDess continues to strive towards helping students reach their highest potential. He currently serves as the Assistant Director of Campus Life at New Jersey City University.

MrJeffDess in conjunction with grew bap books   creates an enjoyable cultural dialogue about growing up as the son of immigrants and the struggle with identity with the publication of Deconstructing Ratchet.

Deconstructing Ratchet, provides a poetic conversation on the complexities of ratchet culture and all that surrounds it. Featuring over 100 haiku, Deconstructing Ratchet will  reshape the way readers define ratchet ideologies and all of its incarnations. The text will specifically look at the impactful influences of music, television and media. The haikus will also address the how young men and women are depicted through a ratchet lens.

Using the art of the haiku poetry, Deconstructing Ratchet evokes humor, paradox and intellectual discourse all while twerking to a dope rhythms and drenched in a hot mess.

clair huxtable haiku

Deconstructing Ratchet will be available in paperback for purchase at www.lulu.com as of March 4, 2014 and www.Amazon.com as of April 4, 2014. EBook versions of the text will be available on April 4, 2014.

For more information visit www.MrJeffDess.com

Follow him on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mrjeffdess

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I’m skinny.

I’ve been skinny for as long as I can remember.  In fact, the only time I wasn’t skinny was when I was an infant, and although I have no recollection of that time, I have pictures to prove it and my mom proudly tells the story of how “vorace” (greedy) I was as a baby.  On the day I was born I drank an entire 4 ounces of formula right out the bottle!  Apparently, not too many day-old babies can claim that.

I was skinny as a toddler, skinny as a child, and skinny as a teen.  When I went to college I thought maybe I’d gain that freshman fifteen everybody was talking about, but although I ate plenty of “college food”, I was not so lucky.  I remained skinny into adulthood.  Then I thought surely when I had children, I’d gain some of that mommy weight everyone feared, but that didn’t work either…none of my three pregnancies gave me mommy weight!  In fact, nursing seemed to make me even skinner than before (if that’s possible)…and I EAT!  I swear, I do.  I’ve never dieted (to lose weight) in my life.  In fact, I’ve often tried (though unsuccessful) to GAIN weight.  I’m saying all this to say that I’m an experienced naturally skinny Haitian-American person, with a lifetime of skinniness under my belt…and it hasn’t been all roses.

Some American people reading this might be wondering what the big deal is — or even think I’m showing off or something as “thin” is “in” in American culture (although, admittedly,  in some African-American circles, I could probably stand to gain some weight).  Conversely, a large number of Haitian people reading this post might be feeling a little sorry for me:  “podyab Ingrid” (poor Ingrid).

haitianfood1

The thing is, being skinny in Haitian circles is not really a desirable thing.  Haitians like to fatten you up.  Plump people seem to make Haitians happy.  Meat on your bones  signifies that you’re eating well, you are well to do, and/or you’re healthy.  Not only do Haitians enjoy feeding you, but they enjoy watching you eat.  But greater than that, they enjoy seeing the results of this generosity.  And although I’ve always enjoyed being fed, and eating (except for that short lived finicky phase I had as a kid), the results of my mass consumption have never been evident.  As you can imagine, this is a great source of frustration for the Haitian collective I grew up with, particularly my mother and grandmother.  Whenever I eat at my mother’s house still today — she offers me seconds, or asks if I’ve eaten everything offered.  I LOVE Haitian food — so I always eat all I can (no shame at mom’s house!).  Just last year, I visited a Haitian-American friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in a while — and she was concerned that I was STILL skinny, and thought maybe I was even skinnier than she remembered.  She was really worried, and fed me the entire time I was there…and she watched me eat, and even sent me home with food.

For most of my Haitian life, I’ve been called maigre, maigrichon, etc. (all words meaning some form of skinny).  Although my weight was never deemed unhealthy, I’ve been  on special “weight gain” diets as a child (adding Ensure to every meal, having steak prepared only for me while the rest of the family ate other food, etc.).  My dear grandmother would always point out plump people to me and tell me how “good” it is to have meat on your bones.  She’d always have food for me, and encourage me to eat more than one serving, or to add more to my plate, etc, then send me home with food (which I appreciated, of course).  When she thought I was taking too long to have children, she assumed that my being skinny was part of the “problem” — so, of course, she sent food!

skinnyfat

Meanwhile, on the American side of  life, being plump was never really cool, never something to aspire to.  So here I was as a child, getting these mixed messages about appearances.  I used to think if I could somehow be “medium” — a little bigger than skinny, but not quite plump — I’d show my Haitian collective that I am indeed gaining, but would still not be ridiculed by the American collective.  I’m okay with it now, but when I was younger, I was pretty self conscious about being skinny.

The reality is, this is just how I am, how I’m metabolized —  and I honestly don’t seem to have a choice in the matter.  Luckily for me — my weight is stubborn, and won’t be bossed around no matter what (kind of like me!).  Not one of my weight-gain diets actually led to my gaining weight…not one.  I suppose I could be less active and eat myself into a frenzy, but I just eat what I like and when I’m full, I stop.  I’ve always been active, I run, swim, played sports, etc…and I wasn’t willing to give that up either.  Nursing my kids seem to make me thinner, but I also wasn’t willing to deprive them of the benefits of nursing.  So I’m just going to be skinny…until I’m not, I guess.  I’m okay with that.  I’ve learned that life is most enjoyable when I’m healthy — and thankfully, I am!  I do what I enjoy, eat what I like, and am who I am.  Some people are thick, some people are thin…I’m one of the thin ones.  It takes all kinds.

I think the Haitian collective figured that out about me too — either that or they just gave up!

How has your Haitian background influenced how you view or viewed yourself?

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