Today’s article may seem a bit out of place. Yet, I guarantee you that it does belong on this food blog. It speaks of both our culture and culinary traditions. So I kindly ask that you bear with me, read it all and leave me a few comments below.
In recent years, we have lost our bearings, which leads to what I consider an alarming identity crisis. “We” refers to my fellow Haitians who increasingly assimilate foreign cultures at the expense of ours. This somehow jeopardizes our traditions, which worries me.
This past Lenten season, the period which begins after kanaval and ends the Friday before Easter, has left me perplexed.
Though Lent has its roots in Christianity, in a country like Haiti, no one, religious or not, can ignore its existence. It affects our daily life, the way we eat and how we spend our leisure time.
Kites paint our environment with colors and give life to our blue skies:
The roar of plastic or paper rubbing against the “vent du Carême” as they take flight makes for a pleasant melody. From the very first notes I know to look up and search for a kite looming on the horizon. That music reminds me of the times I spent watching the neighborhood children create their own kites using plastic bags, rods and strings when I myself was just a kid.
“Rara,” groups of street musicians armed with handmade instruments, bring rhythm to our evenings while also interrupting road traffic.
As a child, the sound of their drums, tchatcha and graj rocked me to sleep.
This tradition, closely linked to voodoo, also follows the Christian calendar. On Easter Monday, these bands retire their instruments until the following year.
Holy week, the week preceding Easter, brings us a long weekend that begins at noon on Thursday.
A large majority heads to the beach that weekend or travels.
As for our gastronomy, our habits also change during Lent.
- Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras and a national holiday, has us eating seafood in lieu of meat
The same goes for every Friday of that period.
Seafood replaces red meats which we avoid in respect of what we call jour maigre.
Poisson gros sel, a recipe which you will find here, becomes one of the main go to dishes throughout this period.
Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, brings us a special menu.
Unfortunately, most if not all of these traditions tend to disappear. With the exception of certain neighborhoods like mine, we now waste the “vent du Carême.” Our kites have practically disappeared; rara bands have lost their prestige; and Friday menus have changed…
The long Easter weekend remains the only surviving tradition.
But it now also bears a new meaning. Young people today seem to ignore why it exists except for the fact that it represents just the perfect opportunity for a quick getaway. They don’t forget the egg hunt, which has also lost its essence, but I’ll spare you the details. This indicates that, somehow, we know of Easter weekend. We seem to have simply chosen to ignore or pretend to ignore our past traditions. And it saddens me.
As these traditions quickly fall into oblivion, I can’t help but wonder whether I have become a stranger to this land or not.
In an attempt to keep our culinary traditions alive, I have linked to some recipes in the article above. The truffles recipe below does not come from our traditional cuisine. I have chosen to prepare them in order to revisit our Haitian chocolate, better known as chocolat pays, and keep the chocolate Easter egg hunt alive.
Bittersweet Haitian Chocolate Truffles
- For the truffles
- 183 gr of chocolat pays chopped about 2 ¾ cups
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- ¼ cup of sugar or to taste
- 2 tsp vanilla
- ⅛ tsp chopped habanero pepper
- 1 pinch of salt use fleur de sel if you have some at hand
- Bittersweet cocoa powder
- For the nest optional
- Thin noodles
- Melted Chocolat Pays
- For the nest (optional)
- Melt some chocolat pays and coat the noodles with it
- Place in a bowl and top with a second bowl to shape it
- Keep in the fridge until it sets
For the truffles
- In a thick bottom pan, bring the heavy cream to a boil
- Add the chopped chocolat pays to the cream and stir until fully melted
- Incorporate the sugar, vanilla, habanero pepper and salt
- Mix well to combine
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours until it sets
- Remove from the fridge and roll by the spoonful between hands into egg shapes
- Once the desired shape is achieved, roll each egg in the bittersweet cocoa powder
- Let set
- Serve in the noodle nest (optional) and enjoy