A Transient Historical past of Haiti’s Cherished Soup Joumou | Journey

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Nadege Soup Joumou.jpeg

Soup joumou is a savory, orange-tinted soup that usually consists of calabaza squash, beef, noodles, carrots, cabbage, numerous different greens and contemporary herbs and spices.
Courtesy of Nadege Fleurimond

Rising up as a Haitian American, January 1 has at all times been extra than simply the beginning of the brand new yr for me. As a baby, waking up on New Yr’s Day, I virtually floated by the air to the aromas of soup joumou, or Haitian pumpkin soup, resting in one of many ornamental bowls my mom reserved for the annual custom.

Each New Yr’s Day, Haitians around the globe devour soup joumou as a strategy to commemorate Haitian Independence Day. On January 1, 1804, Haitians declared independence from French colonial rule following the Haitian Revolution that started in 1791. Soup joumou is a savory, orange-tinted soup that usually consists of calabaza squash—a pumpkin-like squash native to the Caribbean—that’s cooked and blended because the soup’s base. To that base, cooks add beef, carrots, cabbage, noodles, potatoes and different contemporary greens, herbs and spices.

“[Soup joumou] is freedom in each bowl,” says Fred Raphael, a Haitian chef and co-owner of two Haitian eating places within the New York Metropolis metropolitan space. “[Haitians] fought for unity, simply the identical means we get all these totally different substances that come collectively and create this style.”

Haiti, then known as Saint-Domingue, formally got here beneath French occupation in 1697 after Spain ceded the western portion of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola to France, in keeping with Bertin Louis Jr., a cultural anthropologist on the College of Kentucky. To maintain the island’s colonial financial system—which predominantly centered on the manufacturing and export of crops like sugar, espresso and tobacco—French plantation house owners captured and enslaved practically 800,000 Africans as a labor supply on the island. Saint-Domingue, by the early to mid-18th century, grew to be essentially the most worthwhile colony on the planet.

Throughout the colonial period all through the seventeenth and 18th centuries, enslaved Africans cultivated squash, the crop on the heart of soup joumou. In keeping with Louis, enslaved Africans in Saint-Domingue have been prohibited from consuming soup joumou, regardless of being those who ready, cooked and served it to white French enslavers and colonizers. The soup was a logo of standing, and by banning enslaved Africans from consuming it, the French have been capable of assert their superiority, problem the humanity of Black Africans, uphold white supremacy and exert colonial violence, Louis says.

Haiti's Beloved Soup Joumou Serves Up 'Freedom in Every Bowl'

Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture holding a printed copy of the Haitian Structure of 1801.

Library of Congress Prints and Pictures Division

Following the practically 13-year wrestle of the Haitian Revolution led by revolutionaries like Toussaint L’Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe, Haitians declared independence from French management and celebrated their liberation by consuming soup joumou. It’s mentioned that on January 1, 1804, Marie-Claire Heureuse Félicité Bonheur Dessalines, the primary empress of Haiti and Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ spouse, distributed the soup to freed Haitians. Over two centuries later, the custom of consuming the decadent soup continues in celebration of a large-scale slave revolt that created the world’s first free Black republic.

“The soup represents the claiming and reconfiguration of a colonial dish into an anti-colonial image of resistance and in addition Black freedom, particularly Haitian freedom,” Louis says.

For chef and restaurateur Raphael, it was a no brainer to incorporate soup joumou on the menus at each of the eating places he co-owns—First Republic Lounge and Restaurant in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and ​​Rebèl Restaurant and Bar in New York’s Decrease East Aspect. “You don’t have a Haitian restaurant for those who don’t make soup joumou,” he says. Within the near-decade since First Republic Lounge and Restaurant opened—Rebèl Restaurant and Bar opened a number of years later, in 2020—Raphael has made it a practice to create an area for Haitian and non-Haitian group members to come back collectively and benefit from the dish.

“We make it a apply in each eating places to offer [soup joumou] away free of charge the night time of December 31 as we deliver within the new yr,” Raphael says. “We often make a pot of vegetarian soup with no meat, after which there’s one other pot with meat, and anybody can are available and luxuriate in that.”

Mixed, the eating places often see a turnout of about 300 to 500 friends. Raphael and his colleagues spend days getting ready for the occasion, which begins within the night of New Yr’s Eve and goes till the early morning hours of New Yr’s Day. For Raphael, the soup presents a chance to coach individuals and bridge cultural gaps, whether or not that’s non-Haitians making an attempt the soup and studying the historical past behind it or Haitian Individuals who’ve by no means been to Haiti or haven’t been again in years feeling extra linked to the island. “We be sure that [soup joumou] is served correctly, as a result of we wish you to see the pleasure in making this,” Raphael says. “It’s sweat and tears, and a whole lot of of us have died to make sure that we now have the liberty we now have immediately.”

Haiti's Beloved Soup Joumou Serves Up 'Freedom in Every Bowl'

Chef and restauranter Fred Raphael has distributed vegetarian and nonvegetarian bowls of soup joumou free of charge yearly on New Yr’s Eve for practically a decade.

Courtesy of Fred Raphael

Nadege Fleurimond, a Haitian chef, restaurateur and cookbook writer, says soup joumou reminds her of the significance of cultural heritage, household and group. She remembers rising up in Brooklyn, New York, together with her dad and serving to him put together the soup, but in addition visiting the houses of different members of the family and mates and making an attempt their variations. “There’s a soup that’s made in your home, there’s additionally individuals bringing you soup as a result of they’re visiting you, or you might be visiting somebody,” says Fleurimond, who owns the Haitian restaurant BunNan in Brooklyn. “Soups range from household to household, from family to family, however the factor I bear in mind is how this was the day that everybody got here collectively since you wished to rejoice, you wished to unite on this legacy of our ancestors.”

In relation to preparation, Fleurimond says she used to suppose making soup joumou took days when she was a baby. She remembers members of the family first chopping up greens and getting substances collectively. In hindsight, she realizes the method took so lengthy as a result of her members of the family have been making giant pots of soup, but in addition as a result of the communal side of the dish went past simply consuming it collectively. She remembers her aunts within the kitchen speaking about every thing and nothing as they ready the soup and lower greens. “It was a chance to congregate, so issues took somewhat longer,” Fleurimond says. The precise cooking of the soup takes round two hours.

As soon as the soup is prepared, it’s usually eaten as breakfast, lunch and dinner on New Yr’s Day and consumed into the subsequent day as a part of Ancestors’ Day—a vacation honoring Haitian revolutionaries—on January 2. Within the 219 years since Haiti declared independence, soup joumou has gone by numerous adjustments, with totally different households in several areas in Haiti and around the globe placing their very own twists on the dish. For instance, fashionable variations of the soup usually embrace pasta like rigatoni or penne, nevertheless it’s unlikely that was a core a part of the soup again within the 1800s, Raphael says.

With the rise of social media, Fleurimond says individuals can simply share recipes and photos of their variations of soup joumou, and he or she’s seen many on-line debates in regards to the “proper means” to make it. Some individuals say soup joumou is just soup joumou if it has meat in it—although it’s mentioned the unique model was vegetarian. Folks additionally argue in regards to the appropriate pasta and greens to place within the soup, however Fleurimond sees the debates as comical and finally arbitrary. “Sure, there’s a base, however on the finish of the day, [soup joumou] does range from area to area and family to family, as a result of individuals use what substances they’ve entry to,” she says. For each Fleurimond and Raphael (and myself), the soup is often paired with a facet of Haitian bread, a tough dough bread with a chewy texture, at household gatherings.

soup joumou

Soup joumou is historically eaten as breakfast, lunch and dinner on January 1.

Richard Pierrin/AFP through Getty Photos

Amid ongoing social and political crises in Haiti, Raphael says the message and historical past behind soup joumou matter greater than ever. Historians and students have linked lots of Haiti’s plights within the a long time following its liberation, in addition to difficulties confronted in recent times, to the truth that overseas powers went on to take advantage of and drain the island’s wealth for generations after the nation overthrew slavery and declared independence in 1804. After Haiti broke free from French rule, its authorities was compelled to pay former French slaveholders and their descendants about $560 million in immediately’s {dollars} over the course of 64 years—cash that will have amounted to $21 billion if it remained in Haiti’s financial system.

Right now, Haiti struggles with gang violence, a cholera outbreak, poverty, acute starvation and continued overseas intervention makes an attempt opposed by many Haitians. Because of these points, many have immigrated, moved out of and fled the nation in latest a long time and years, with Haitians now spanning the globe. Fleurimond says soup joumou permits Haitians around the globe to come back collectively and rejoice a standard historical past.

“We’d like a revolution in Haiti proper now due to what’s happening by way of political and social turmoil,” Fleurimond says. “Each time January 1 comes round, [Haitians] have this one anchor level of the soup. It reminds us of what we’ve achieved, what’s nonetheless attainable if we do come collectively and in addition that sense of group that’s authentically felt. It’s extra than simply the family that’s making the soup—it additionally spreads to everybody in your group making the soup, and each Haitian on the planet that’s making this soup. This simply exhibits we actually are one.”

Nadege Fleurimond’s Soup Joumou Recipe

Serving measurement: 10-12


For the epis seasoning

  • 1/4 medium onion
  • 1/2 inexperienced bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 pink bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 10 scallions, chopped
  • 12 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 sprigs of thyme (simply the leaves)
  • 1/4 cup olive or canola oil

For the soup

  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 entire lime, lower in half
  • 2 kilos of beef (combination of chuck, beef stew, soup bones)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup epis seasoning
  • 3 tablespoons contemporary lime juice, divided
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
  • 1 medium calabaza squash (about 2 kilos), peeled and cubed, or 2 kilos defrosted frozen cubed calabaza squash, or 1 butternut squash (about 2 kilos), peeled and lower into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 giant Idaho potatoes, lower into cubes
  • 2 carrots (about 1 pound), sliced
  • 1/4 small inexperienced cabbage (about 1/2 pound), very thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green elements solely, finely chopped
  • 2 small turnips, finely chopped
  • 1 inexperienced Scotch bonnet or habanero
  • 6 entire cloves
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly floor black pepper
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 parsley sprig
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 1 cup rigatoni
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter


  1. Begin with making the Haitian epis seasoning by inserting all substances in a blender or meals processor and mixing.
  2. Pour 1 cup vinegar into a big bowl. Swish beef in vinegar. Squeeze lime halves and clear meat the Caribbean means by rubbing the meat with the insides of the lime items. Rinse with chilly water, pressure and set meat apart in giant soup pot.
  3. Add oil, 1 cup of epis seasoning, 2 tablespoons lime juice and seasoned salt to pot with meat. Toss to coat, then let marinade at the very least Half-hour, ideally in a single day.
  4. After marinading, deliver meat pot to medium warmth and add in 2 cups of water. Cowl and let simmer for 40 minutes, repeatedly including water, till meat is delicate.
  5. In a separate pot, add squash with 4 cups of water. Cook dinner on medium warmth till squash is fork tender, about 25 minutes.
  6. As soon as cooked, purée squash in a blender or meals processor. Add to pot of cooked meat.
  7. With the soup pot nonetheless on medium warmth, add an extra 5 cups of water. Add potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onion, celery, leek, turnips, the inexperienced Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, cloves, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, parsley and thyme. Add water as crucial to make sure liquid is at the very least 2 inches above greens and meat.
  8. Simmer, uncovered, persevering with so as to add water as crucial till greens are tender, about 25-Half-hour.
  9. Add in rigatoni, butter and remaining 1 tablespoon of lime juice. Simmer on low till pasta is cooked, about 10-12 minutes.
  10. Style and alter seasonings as wanted.

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