January 1st might seem like a normal day for other people., aside from it being the first day of a new year, but as someone from Haitian descent, it holds a lot more meaning. On January 1st 1804, the country of Haiti would gain independence and liberate themselves from French colonial rule. Centuries later, Haitian people worldwide still celebrate this victory. This landmark date is celebrated in many ways, but there is one way of celebration that is a staple in Haitian culture, and that is the eating of “Soup Joumou” or “Squash soup” as it is called in English.
Now, even though this dish is very well-known in the Haitian community, I still would consider it a family recipe. Though we may not be blood related, I see my fellow Haitian people as my brothers and sisters, no matter how much of a stranger they are. Now, you’re probably wondering how the soup is made. Well my family, and I’m sure lots of other Haitian families, use organic home-grown ingredients to make this dish. Obviously, the most important ingredient is Squash. Last year my mother, who cooks it every year for my father and I, used organic squash which is what I prefer since it improves the soup incredibly. Other organic ingredients we use are cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, and corn. The only non-organic ingredients we put in the soup are beef and macaroni. Waking up and drinking this soup with bread on the side is something I look forward to every new years day. My mother sometimes loves to share some soup with my upstairs neighbor, who is also Haitian, and sometimes vice-versa. Same with her other Haitian friends too. I love checking on my social media to see my friends who are not of Haitian descent try the soup. It’s amazing that food can bring so many people together. It feels good to be part of a culture with such a rich tradition. In conclusion, I hope this blog post inspires more and more people from other ethnicities and backgrounds to learn more about this tradition, and maybe try to make their own soup too!
Going to Hawaii was one of those once in a lifetime experiences because of it’s great distance from the mainland. It’s colorful and deeply bio-diverse landscape passed by our every moment on our 10-day journey. It is also a place of contradictions, there are gated communities vs. where the locals live. There are certain places like Honolulu where every square foot is developed and there are places off the big island where nothing is going on for miles.
In terms of food that I ate I can recall a
variety of experiences. Because at certain portions in our trip my family was
staying at Airbnb, we primarily went grocery shopping for our breakfasts. Unfortunately,
we weren’t always able to invest in the local economy and my family just
settled for whole foods. Which imports a variety of foods that we are
accustomed to. This was our experiences at airport hotels and other similar
establishments. One unique thing about Hawaii is it’s long-distance from the
mainland. There are certain consequences because of this food have to be
imported from far off places. People pay higher prices for food and it’s a
higher cost of living if the essentials aren’t as cheap.
In contrast with our whole foods experience we
did eat from a variety of local restaurants. Unlike here where you might find a
Burger King, McDonalds or Wendy’s off the side of main street. There are a
variety of successful local restaurants that can be found off of the highways.
One of the surprising finds was a rather small looking restaurant which served
primarily comfort food with a local charm. What made the experience very
special was owners took their time and talked with us. Even pointing out
certain tourist attractions that we might have wanted to visit in particularly
a beach with green sand. When transitioning from one hotel to the next my
family didn’t prep ahead of time. So, we were hoping to depend on restaurants
but there were none open because it was Christmas. We ended up eating some Spanish
bread and vegetables from a local market. We were hungry by the end of the day
but it was more important that we contributed to the local economy. This
situation felt fairly equivalent to a story my parents tell each thanksgiving.
That in 1998 when me and my family first moved here from Belgium, we didn’t
necessarily understand thanksgiving. They thought that all the shops would be
open and they could eat something for dinner.
Surprisingly this wasn’t the case and my parents ended up buying food
from a gas station. In that way my trip to Hawaii let me accept different
cultural experiences that I hope to share with others.