♪♩Qu’y a-t-il oh, dans la rue oh, je ne peux pas dormir, c’est jour de carnaval chacun va s’amuser, sauter, rire ou crier, chanter, pomper de joie!… ♫
(What is going on, oh, in the streets oh, I cannot sleep, it’s carnival day, everyone is going to have fun, jump, laugh or scream, sing, jump with joy…)
My first memory of these mouthfuls of pleasure is closely tied to the above song, which I first learned during a live performance in pre-k. Though I am not really certain of the timeframe – it seems odd that such an event for kids would take place at this time – my memories tell me it was a Carnival party in the evening at my preschool.
I was probably four. I remember being drawn near the pot by the mouth-watering smell that emanated from it. Standing near Dedette, the one who was preparing them, I waited impatiently for my turn to have my share. I even think I got reprimanded because I wouldn’t walk away from me the pot after being served. In fact, if my memory serves me right, I repeatedly gobbled up the share that was given to me and immediately got back in line. Since that day, I eat them every year during the carnival season. It is actually a Haitian tradition.
Indeed, we actually eat our Haitian beignets most exclusively during our carnival season. A Haitian beignet is a preparation of bananas that is deep-fried. The bananas are not coated with a paste like it’s done in many places in the Caribbean; instead they are pureed into a batter that is pretty similar to a crepe batter. This results in a batter which, when fried, has a smooth texture. Our beignets, whether hot or cold, are generously sprinkled with sugar. This step is essential for the preparation itself is not too sweet.
As mentioned before, we eat beignets only during a given time of the year. The first batch is made after January 6, which marks the official start of the carnival period, and the last one must be eaten by Ash Wednesday as beignets are technically not supposed to be eaten during Lent unless of course you are still at the carnival after midnight on Fat Tuesday. While there, although chronologically speaking it is Ash Wednesday, everyone is still in Mardi Gras mode. When we head home early Wednesday, it is officially Ash Wednesday and the remaining beignets are eaten with a bit of guilt.
If one day you attend our carnival, do not hesitate to try our beignets, even if they are cold. A cold beignet eaten on a carnival stand gives as much joy to the taste buds as a hot one.