Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Soup Joumou and the Haitian flag

"In the 1700’s the French took control of Haiti from Spain and continued the barbaric tradition of slavery where they enlisted the slaves to cultivate sugarcane, cocoa as well as other staples. The French would eat the delicious pumpkin soup prepared by the slaves but the slaves themselves were not allowed to consume it. The slaves rose up against the French colonists and in 1804 overthrew them, creating the first Independent African-American nation in the new world. (That little fact was a surprise to me!). The slaves celebrated their independence that day by preparing, eating and sharing the forbidden pumpkin soup with each other as a symbol of what they could achieve when they worked together."

Or as Brother Mike would say it's a big "$&%&*#" to the French, and he holds up his middle finger (Brother Mike is a wonderful man--good humor, cheer, love, support etc). We happened to eat this soup twice, once each week. One of the days was on Haitian Flag day--a day where Independence is yet again acknowledged and celebrated.

On May 18, 1803, while Congress was being held in the midst of the fight for Independence, the flag was created as a symbol of the much sought after freedom. "By removing the middle white stripe of the French tricolor, symbolizing European domination, and stitching together the remaining red and blue stripes, representing Haiti’s black and interracial citizens, the flag came to embody the nation’s spirit of freedom, unity, and individual liberty."

"L'Union Fait La Force" (through Unity there is Strength) became the slogan for the flag and the people of Haiti.

On Flag day there was no school and Aisha and I spent a good deal of the day playing with the orphanage children and getting better acquainted with the hospital and students. The town of Hinche was sparsely decorated with strings of small Haitian flags and signs declaring a celebration. That evening while we helped two moms labor and another have a VBAC (something that rarely happens in Hinche and only occurred because the Dr. didn't make it in time to perform cesarean), the town of Hinche was celebrating this colorful flag and all it symbolizes. When we drove to the hospital that night the small square in the center of town was full of people drumming and dancing. It honestly was hard to not hop off the Midwives for Haiti truck and participate.

On the walk home the next morning evidence of the night before was scattered throughout the streets. The strings of flags hanging across them were torn, many flags missing. I still don't know why.

On Flag day, this speech was made in our own country.....

"In the aftermath of January’s devastating earthquake, it [the flag] took on new resonance. The world rallied around the Haitian flag in an unprecedented outpouring of generosity and support. And like the stitched-together stripes of the flag, the Haitian people joined in solidarity to confront the challenges facing your country.

Today’s celebrations across Haiti and the Diaspora community are a testament to your resilience and determination even during the most challenging time. As we commemorate Flag Day, we must pay special tribute to those Haitians who despite having lost so much continue to work to build a stronger, more prosperous nation and a better tomorrow.

As the flag inspired an earlier generation of Haitians in their struggle for freedom, may it now inspire all of us to work for Haiti’s future. The United States will continue to stand with you as a friend and partner. And we send you our warmest wishes on this special day."~ Hillary Clinton

With all those messages in mind, I invite you to make some Soup Joumou:

Recipe for Soup Joumou or Pumpkin Soup
1 lb.cubed beef stew meat
2 lb. pumpkin (winter squash)
1 lb. cabbage sliced, chopped
3 carrots peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery sliced and cut,
3 quarts water (more later if needed)
1 large onion cubed
6 medium potatoes
1 lb. malanga peeled and cubed or equivalent
3 medium sized turnips, peeled and cubed
2 limes cut in half and juiced
1/4 lb vermicelli, macaroni broken short
4 garlic cloves, 2 sliced scallions, chopped fine
1 teaspoon thyme, 2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, all ground
1 scotch bonnet pepper, whole with stem.(hot).

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