After thirty years in Haiti, we have grown accustomed to the differences between the American and the Haitian culture. We thought you might be interested in, and perhaps amused as well, to learn some of the idiosyncrasies we find here in Haiti. These idiosyncrasies have often evoked the response, “This is how we do it here.”
The main staple in Haiti is rice and beans. It is often accompanied (if one has enough money) by chicken in a creole sauce. It is excellent and filled with protein. I never could understand the addition of “jirof,” however. “Jirof” are cloves and normally we would use cloves for baking. These are not garlic cloves, mind you, but cloves that have been finely ground to powder that we purchase in the grocery store in a plastic container. We commonly add this to our pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving.
Ah, Thanksgiving! One may find some turkey thighs in the marché, but it is unimaginable to the average Haitian for one to set a complete turkey on the table along with dressing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and of course, pumpkin pie. Our workers greatly look forward to our American holiday because Agape Flights flies in turkeys for each missionary family once a year. Our workers know they will get to partake of this feast alongside us. After making a traditional Thanksgiving meal years ago, I gave our cook, Angeline, a slice of pumpkin pie. Since pumpkin is used to make soup here in Haiti, she was amazed to see it used in a dessert. However, she loved it!
The first time I ate rice and beans with a chicken creole sauce, I noticed the sauce had something in it that looked somewhat like nuts. Sure enough, they had cashew nuts (nwa kajou) cooked into the sauce. Of course, we had always eaten cashew nuts uncooked. It was absolutely delicious!
From time to time, I will share more on this subject. We have enjoyed the blending of our cultures. We get the better part of both worlds, for the Haitian culture is a very rich one. The Haitians are also excellent cooks. It’s fun to watch our workers try foods they don’t have here. From time to time, we receive a box of food from generous friends in the States. Our friends here often get to sample things such as pecans, walnuts, cranberries, and such. It’s fun watching what they like and don’t particularly care for. All in all, we have been so blessed to partake of cassava bread, drink chadek juice (a fruit similar to our grapefruit), and partake of Cola’s papaya milkshakes.
One memory stands apart from the rest, however. An older lady in our church gave us the gift of a rooster years ago. The meat was so tough we will probably never eat another rooster. (At least, not if we can help it!) Yet, knowing that this was a gift of great price on her part made it very special. It was a seed sown, a sacrifice that could not be turned away. But for those of you who hope to visit us here in Haiti, rest assured. We promise not to serve you rooster!