“Man gotta cook, woman too!” – Mateo
I am writing a cookbook titled The Haitian Table, a Multi-cultural Taste, that explores not only the cooking of Haiti, but the disparate cultures that have merged to give Haiti its characteristic and unique cuisine. I hope to place Kreyol (Creole) food on everyone’s table and add Haitian cooking to everyone’s repertoire.
Most people could probably guess that French and Spanish food traditions provide the framework for Haitian cooking. Few realize that Haiti has benefited from a strong Middle Eastern influence as well, due to a steady influx of immigrants from Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and other countries. Middle Eastern cooking, of course, was one of many influences. In addition, many Haitian mothers adopted recipes from Italy, France and Spain, and then added Haitian accents, carefully keeping the essence of the dishes intact while adapting them for the Caribbean palate. These Haitian recipes are easy to make in home kitchens, for all tastes and all levels of cooking expertise.
Many characters have come in and out of my grandparents’ home, and they have told me many stories of the homeland, Haiti cheri. I want to relay these fantastic adventures as a way of simplifying Haitian myth and characters, in an attempt to bring you closer to Voudou and embrace it for what it is: magic, a magic that exists everywhere and in every religion, a magic that transcends reality and relies on faith, a credo that has helped a nation of people keep together, smile and be proud throughout a very long historical journey and struggle with deep roots from Africa and Europe.
This is a grandson’s homage to his grandparents, a whirlwind of spirited folks and improbable situations that are vivid and memorable. Come fishing with me for these wondrous daily catches, as I hope to whet your appetite for la cuisine grandmère.