Haitian Pilon Rhythm
The staccato rhythm of a Haitian pilon (wooden pestle) in a house is music to my ears. Maybe it’s because it mimics the sound of a drum or because its own way it announces that a typical meal is being prepared. Whatever the reason may be, the fact remains that I like the sound of a pestle; a sound I often missed during my stay abroad. Not necessarily because I was missing its melody, but because without a pestle my dishes never seemed to have the « goût lakay » (taste of home).
Why bother manually reducing spices when a food processor will get the job done? – is what you may ask.
My take on this is that a food processor simply doesn’t give the same results when it comes to Haitian cooking. A wooden pestle is the tool for anyone wishing to cook a real Haitian meal.
Food seasoned with a mixture of spices smashed in a wooden pestle just has an extra oomph. Plus, the smell emanating from a pestle is like no other. The aroma resulting from the mixture of smashed garlic, chives, parsley, bell pepper, salt, pepper and thyme – main spices used in our cuisine – can fill an entire house. Can your food processor do that? Mine, can’t.
These are a few of the reasons why I will keep repeating that a wooden pestle is the key to the « goût lakay » (taste of home). This is perhaps the result of the way the spices are smashed or of the way the aromas permeate the wooden pestle over time. One thing is certain, the taste is not the same, nor is the smell of spices.
So, for a typical Haitian meal, I encourage you to use a wooden pestle and to get used to its staccato rhythm, which will only be interrupted by your own fatigue. Your palate will thank you.