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17614: Lemieux: Miami Herald: Pumpkin and pride (fwd)
From: JD Lemieux <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Posted on Thu, Jan. 01, 2004
January 1, 2004
Pumpkin and pride
BY JACQUELINE CHARLES
Two hundred years ago today, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a
slave turned freedom fighter, declared Haiti free from
To mark the occasion, South Florida Haitians will turn to
prayer and an age-old tradition deeply rooted in Haitian
history and culture: They will drink pumpkin soup.
For Haitians, pumpkin soup or soup joumou (pronounced
joo-moo) represents freedom and hope for the future, two
ideals that take on added significance in this bicentennial
Stories vary about how the soup became ingrained in Haitian
identity. There are some who believe it goes back to Africa
and Vodou practices. Others trace it to the days of
slavery, when it is said that only the French colonialists
were allowed to drink pumpkin soup. After independence, the
freed slaves celebrated by eating the master's
In preparing today's meal, some Haitians will stick to
tradition, filling a big pot with generous amounts of beef,
potatoes, carrots, celery and pasta. They will forgo frozen
squash for the best fresh pumpkin (calabaza) they can find
to give the spicy soup its distinct gold color and sweet
tropical flavor. They will crush fresh garlic and parsley
in a wooden mortar and pestle and purée the pumpkin with a
sieve and a big wooden spoon.
Others will add their own twists to tradition. Instead of a
stew in which every ingredient is distinguishable, they
will blend it all together, symbolizing the melting pot
that South Florida has become for its newest and hungriest
Regardless of the recipe, local Haitian chefs and
restaurateurs say, today's soup joumou should be eaten with
a sweet sense of pride in Haiti's past and warm, soulful
reflection on its future.
''If I had to say in one word what this soup represents to
me, it is freedom,'' said chef Ivan Dorvil, owner of Nuvo
Kafe in North Miami.
Dorvil is a traditionalist when it comes to pumpkin soup.
The only nonstandard ingredient he uses is kosher salt
``because it's better, more controllable.''
''When you change the recipe it's not the same,'' said
Dorvil. ``Our soup has its own way of being, its own
texture. You have to maintain the same quality.''
While some Haitian restaurants only offer pumpkin soup on
special occasions, Nuvo Kafe serves it every day, said
Dorvil, who calls his version ``freedom soup.''
''Haitian people should have this soup every day to remind
us of our freedom,'' he said. ``It should remind us of how
hard our ancestors fought and where they want us to go and
where we should be in the near future.''
Nuvo Kafe is closed for the holiday today, but across the
street, Chef Creole will be adding a secret sauce and
seafood to the traditional pumpkin base for his soup
joumou. By replacing the meat with blue crabs, shrimp,
lobster and conch, chef-owner Wilkinson ''Ken'' Sejour said
he is showing how far Haitians have moved into the
''When you taste Chef Creole's soup there is going to be a
distinct difference,'' said Sejour, who plans to offer his
version at both his North Miami and Little Haiti
'I want people to not only taste the flavor but to
acknowledge, `Hey look at where we are right now.' We are
the first black nation to get our independence and at this
point in our struggle, we're still making progress, we are
still paving the way in order for us to reach what each of
us individually would call super-success.''
At Citronelle in Northeast Miami, where both the owner and
chef are Haitian but the food isn't necessarily so, chef
Jacques Emmanuel blends his soup joumou into a creamy
''What we want to convey is the new generation of thinking,
of innovating, of creating,'' said Ronald Rigaud, owner of
Citronelle. ``That's what 2004 is about. It's a reflection.
It's what we've done, what we need to do, what we need to
Most of the ingredients of chef Emmanuel's soup are
traditional, but there is no pasta, and instead of beef,
the recipe calls for beef or vegetable stock and a little
white wine. A bouquet garni adds a layer of flavor to the
Soup joumou, which is typically a soup of the day at
Citronelle, will be featured daily during the first week of
January in honor of the bicentennial, Rigaud said.
''It's to everyone's palate,'' he said. ``It's a mix of
different spices. There is nothing overpowering about it.''
This is how he would like Haitians to view 2004.
''What makes soup joumou is not just the pumpkin, but the
different spices, different vegetables, a mixture of
things. And that is what people need to realize,'' said
Rigaud. ``When you consider what is a nation, it is this
blend of different people, different backgrounds, different
views, different vision with a common goal: Haiti.''
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