Saturday, February 9, 2013

Good Eatin'

Of all cultural differences, food seems to be the most difficult to overcome. Food is felt. It is tasted. It is smelled. The fact that refried beans resemble cat vomit is the only reason I can't eat them.

And, most importantly, food affects your... poop... and that needs to stay regular no matter what new culture you're experiencing.

Here in Kay Jezi Mari we still eat very Americanized meals (our cook even knows how to make pizza) so my real immersion into Haitian food culture was at camp in December. Here is what I learned:

Haitians like their food ridiculously salty, sweet, or spicy.
Look at all that salt!
It is always soggy. It is always oily.
Rice, legumes (soggy mashed vegetables) and bean sauce.

Their staple is rice and beans.
The biggest pot of rice and beans I've ever seen.
A large number of people suffer from heart tension, high cholesterol, and even diabetes, all likely consequences of their fried, high-sodium, carb and starch-based foods. So naturally after they finish a meal they like to chug a soda.

Yellow and purple-colored sodas, plus a popular pink or orange-colored sugary juice called "Tampico"
The one thing I cannot understand is canned mixes of tomato sauce and fish chunks.
Nothing says "appetizing" like a picture of an anchovy lying in a bed of tomatoes.

For breakfast: boiled plantains, yams, and potatoes in a fish and tomato sauce

But they do have real, delicious fish that they will sell you as you're walking or driving.

Haitians make a mean spaghetti. The catch is: they eat it for breakfast. It is cooked in oil with onions and served with slices of hotdogs and a squirt of ketchup.

My hotdog-less spaghetti
One night at camp, my friend ate a bowl of cornflakes for dinner. I told her that in the U.S. we have it reversed - we eat cornflakes for breakfast and spaghetti for dinner. She openly laughed.
The next day they cooked a pot of spaghetti for dinner to make me feel more at home (because Haitians are just so freaking generous and thoughtful like that). The Haitian nun running the camp is a vegetarian like yours truly, so I was surprised to see her cutting hotdogs into my spaghetti. Of course, not missing anything, she noticed I didn't take any hotdog slices in my bowl and so I just said, "that's okay! I don't eat much meat so someone else can have my helping of it" and she says, "I know, but this isn't meat - this is hotdog!"

Besides eating hotdogs, one thing you will never see me  do is drink bean sauce.

I did drink some of this delicious hot chocolate:

Boiling hot chocolate
We opened up dozens of imported chocolate powder packets
And even stirred it (They were skeptical of my abilities).

Here is a typical Haitian spread (taken at a birthday party, hence the champagne). They eat fried plantains, a spicy coleslaw called "piklis," chicken legs (but ONLY legs - all imported leftovers from the U.S.), sometimes a salad with lettuce and tomatoes, always rice, sauce, and on special occasions - cake!
 And, being a Caribbean island and all, Haiti has the best fruits. Mangoes, pineapple, bananas, watermelon, and papaya. 
I'll end with this weird and this awesome thing called a kawosol. It's green and covered with spikes. Inside it is compiled of a bunch of juicy modules, filled with big black seeds:

Our amazing cook, Clamen. She's making kawosol juice. On the left in the strainer are peeled ones. 
They even have kawasol icecream!

1 comment:

  1. Jen, I haven't been in touch but want you to know I still enjoy your BLOG immensely! Please consider publishing when you get home. It's a great chronicle. . .
    I am asking your permission to use some of your fantastic photos for our province PowerPoint, to be presented at the Chapter next week. Is that OK? I'll acknowledge their source!
    We've had two feet of snow!! Bitter cold. . . can't find the cars for the drifts. . .so you enjoy that warm weather!
    Love to Jackie and Pat, whom I shall soon see!