I will never forget the cafeteria conversations I had with my friends over dinner while in college in the US. Every time I walked up to the serving stations and said yes to meat, potatoes, salad and rice, I knew I would be sure to get a lecture from everyone at my table the minute I set my tray down. They simply wouldn’t approve of my food combinations.
Indeed, my foreign friends had a hard time grasping the concept of mixing so many food items especially potatoes and rice. When rice was featured on the menu, which thankfully happened quite often in our cafeteria – you will understand why I use the word thankfully in a bit, – my dinner was almost always punctuated with the following comments:
“You simply cannot mix two starches;” “it’s not good for your health;” “two starches a day will make you fat; ” comments to which I would reply:
“star—cc—what ??…We don’t really keep track of food categories at our dinner table in Haiti. I just know I gotta have my rice, potatoes – when there are no plantains, – salad, a gratiné if it’s a Sunday, and definitely rice for my stomach to be happy !”
The rice mentioned twice was intentional on my part.
To date, I can still see the exasperated look on their face at the mention of that long list of food items, especially the required rice featured on my list regardless of the menu offerings.
See Haitians cannot eat without rice. For us, a meal simply is incomplete without a spoonful or two of this grain. Even those of us who are not fond of it still gotta have it for their stomachs to be filled. Regardless of how « rich » a menu may be, as some of my foreign friends would put it when referring to our daily Haitian dinner menus, rice will always find its way to the table in one form or another.
And we do eat rice in many forms. Diri blan ak sòs pwa finds its way on the table daily throughout the week, from Monday to Friday; diri kole or our riz national, which recipe I will soon share with you, accompanies our more elaborate Sunday menus ; and diri djondjon is often substituted for diri kole and is almost always featured alongside it at formal dinner gatherings, as mentioned in my diri djondjon… posting about this particular wild mushroom typical of our soil.
Let’s not forget the wide variety of rice available on our market, some of which are grown locally in Bas Artibonite and L’Estère (Northwest of Haiti). Among those are white rice and its variations, which include TCS, riz La Crête, and yellow rice and diri Sheila, rice that are used on Sundays. I am sure you are curious to know the difference between these, and I promise to share them one by one on the blog. My only condition is that you stick with reading it ☺
With all these rice types and preparations, no doubt that rice definitely is an essential part of our everyday menu. And I bet our love of rice surprises some of you as much as it surprised my college friends.
I have a smile on my face just writing these last few words as I am picturing the look my friends would have if they read this article. In case one of them stops by, let me finish this entry and simply and happily say that now that I have settled back home in Haiti, I still eat my daily portion of rice, and somehow have still managed to successfully keep the « freshman 15 » off.
One last little secret, I sometimes eat it twice a day, leftovers for lunch and freshly cooked at dinner.