All over the world we celebrates the New Year on January 1st, but in Haïti we have a double commemoration. So many are oblivious to Haiti’s pivotal role in history in the early 19th century. The battle for independence was courageously won by a rebellion of unified people including Blacks, Mulattoes, French, Spanish, Polish, German and British sympathizers over a tumultuous period beginning in 1791 and culminating on January 1, 1804. A historic and important precedent was established in the movement of Anti-Colonial sentiment giving rise to new independent nations. Freedom was gained for the slave population of the island that day and subsequently fueled the international movement for the abolition of slavery.
My adopted country is the birthplace of freedom and the place where the glorious victory over its colonial masters culminated in the emancipation of slavery on January 1, 1804. Haiti is the true Mother of the Americas as it symbolizes the massive achievement which was attained through a cohesive union. The quote of arms bears the banner “L’Union fait la force” which means “Strength in Union”. Had the freedom fighters not had a singular vision of unification of thought and action to overcome and defeat their colonial master, they would have never been able to defeat the might of the French and British troops.
The Haitian Bi-color Flag and emblem of “Union Fait la Force”.
Any person of color or any disenfranchised people were welcomed and proclaimed free on Haïtian soil. Haiti offered aid and assistance to many foreign countries in their fight for independence and emancipation of slavery including the USA, Venezuela and Bolivia. The story of Haïtian independence was like a fairytale or a fable to many and served as the impetus to fuel the dreams of emancipation of slavery in other countries. Without the aid of Haïti, many countries in Latin America would not have obtained their independence at that time.The weary and down trodden freedom fighter Simon Bolivar and company arrived in Haïti in 1815, seeking assistance and support from President Pétion. The agreement settled on was that Haïti would provide much needed arms and ammunition, food, shelter and soldiers. In return, Bolivar was to free all slaves in the newly liberated countries. Simon Bolivar later became known as the Great liberator, though many today are unaware of Haïti’s role in their history. The agreement was kept secret at the time, as Haiti’s role would have been seen as an act of war by the United States and Spain.
In celebration of Haïtian independence, the ex-slaves used ingredients that were once forbidden for their consumption and were primarily reserved for use by the colonial masters. Pumpkins, or winter squash, potatoes, cabbage along with turnips were simmered together with beef and pork to make a supremely delicious and hearty soup. This celebratory soup or Soupe Joumou has since been a traditional meal on January 1st every year by all Haïtians. It is consumed in commemoration of a glorious event in Haïtian history and acknowledges the strength, determination and victory of the ancestors. Pumpkin soup is one which is prepared with great pride and love in every Haïtian household. This long-standing custom heralds the New year and commemorates the 1804 Independence of Haïti. It remains a symbol of freedom for its people and is often dubbed Independence soup.
In my household we make this dish all year around, especially when pumpkins are in season. Although I doubt whether the pasta addition was an ingredient in the original soup, over the course of time it has become a standard ingredient. Any type of pasta can be used from elbows to fusilli or even vermicelli. You can omit it if you prefer, but take my word for it that it is a most favorable addition. For those who prefer a chicken stock, chicken pieces can be used, but a meat stock is definitely more flavorful. Vegetarians can opt to make a vegetable stock if desired. I urge you to try this recipe for a taste of Haïti. Our cuisine is undoubtedly one of the most delicious in the Caribbean.
Happy New Year and Happy 215th Anniversary Haïti. Strength in Unity always Haïti Cherie. Here’s to a New Year of Peace and new beginnings with positive outcomes for the future of all.
Haïtian pumpkin soup / Soupe Joumou
Traditional Haitian pumpkin gourde is thick skinned with deep yellow/ orange color
Haitian style Pumpkin soup (Soup Joumou)
2 lbs beef shanks
1 -2 lbs pork shanks
2 lbs Caribbean pumpkin or winter squash (deep orange color preferably )
4 leeks, chopped
2 turnips, chopped
3 carrots, peeled, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/4 lb Cabbage, cut into large dice
4 -5 medium potatoes, quartered
3 branches of celery chopped
1 cup pasta
4 Sorrel leaves
3 branches Parsley
2 -3 branches of Celery leaves
1 whole Hot pepper
1-2 chicken bouillon cubes* optional but a great flavor booster
Salt and pepper
10-12 cups Water
1 tbsp White Vinegar
Vegetables used for the soup Joumou
Wash off the meat and rinse with a table spoon of vinegar.
In a large deep pot, add a tablespoon of oil on medium high heat, then add the meat and brown.
Add the chopped carrots, leeks, celery and onion. Sauté all of the meat and vegetables together for a few minutes, then add the 3/4 quantity of water. Bring to a boil. Skim of any scum which floats up while boiling.
A medley of potatoes, cabbage, carrots, turnips, leeks and celery for the soup.
The meat will take about 45 minutes to an hour to boil until tender.
You may use a pressure cooker to cook the meat faster. If so, use just enough water to cover the meat and pressure for about 20 minutes until meat is tender but not over cooked.
Meanwhile, peel the pumpkin, cube and place in a pot to boil. When tender, remove pieces and crush. You can do this by had or for a smoother blend, pass the pumpkin pieces through a food mill.
Pumpkin purée to be added to the stock
Add the puréed pumpkin and stir into the soup along with the rest of the remaining water. Add the chopped potatoes, turnips, cloves & hot pepper.
Crumble the Bouillon cubes if using and stir everything together. Make a bouquet garni with the celery and sorrel leaves and add to the soup. Bring to a rapid boil and add the pasta.
Adjust the salt and black pepper to your taste.
Soup will thicken as it cools.
Serve with a fresh lime section for a fresh and delicious fresh flavor.
Note: You can use chicken pieces instead of pork or beef for your stock base. A vegetarian stock can also be made for the soup if preferred