Welcome to The Storied Recipe! I host a unique podcast where every guest gives me a recipe that’s significant to their culture, life, and memories. I make, photograph, and share the recipe with you. I invite you to listen to Kathiana's story as you learn how to make her *delicious* Haitian Squash Soup - Soup Joumou!
I'm going to be brief in my comments on this delicious recipe from Kathiana because I mainly want you to hear about it in HER words. In short, this soup is full of flavor and very, VERY filling. It's full of nutrients from squash (a Haitian pumpkin resembling the butternut squash we can find in the US), cabbage, potatoes, celery, and carrots. I've never once in my life considered including pasta OR plantains in pumpkin soup (!!), but let me tell you - both are a revelation!! According to Kathiana's recipe, you can use any protein of your choice. The thing that makes this Haitian soup even more unique, however, is epis - a Haitian spice blend from parsley, green onion, garlic, bell pepper, and black pepper. Like many recipes from all of our ancestors, there are no proportions given in Kathiana's recipe. It's a list of ingredients that you mix and match to your and your family's taste.
The Historical Significance of Soup Joumou as a Symbol of Liberation
In 19th-century Haiti, living conditions for slaves were unspeakably awful. As elsewhere in the world, they were treated brutally, kept enslaved by a combination of gruesome physical treatment and psychological abuse. Slave masters denied these people as much as possible, even seemingly trivial things, especially if those things were associated with the lifestyle of Haiti’s French slave-owning bourgeoise. One tradition that was well established within the bourgeoisie was that of having soup joumou. Some households could afford to make it several times a week, others only on Sundays, but a bowl of soup joumou was never to be seen in the hands or mouths of a slave. This food was not intended for them, as it was too rich, too wholesome, too good . . . . Therefore, in the first years of the 19th century, slaves and free black Haitians led a successful revolution, taking control of the country and instating their own language, their own institutions, and their own customs. As a potent symbol of the abundance that had been denied them for hundreds of years, the newly free population appropriated the food most symbolic of freedom: soup joumou. Independence was officially declared on January 1st, 1804. To celebrate that first New Year’s Day, the people of Haiti prepared, cooked, and shared soup joumou. A delicacy previously forbidden, it was now made available to everyone. More than two hundred years later, the tradition is still going strong.
Furthermore, Kathiana has this to say about her personal experience with Soup Joumou:
Growing up, I never really liked the soup unless there would only be chicken, noodles, carrots, and celery in my bowl. For the dish has several veggies within it, and what kid likes vegetables, not this one. However, the older I got the more I enjoyed the other ingredients within the soup, and I have taken pride of what the soup is and the history that it holds. Moreover, I find that me and my cousins obsess over the soup and try to tell our friends to come over and partake in the goodness of the soup. Now, looking back I have noticed the power in means of influence that the bowl of soup holds: It holds part of my history, culture, past-times fun, tasty bites, and memories.
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