own list of unappreciated foods. However, upon reading her list, the only thing that came over me was this overwhelming sense of chagrin. Her list included items such as Tchaka, Pitimi, ble, Bouillon and many other things that I consider almost delicacies and gourmet when it comes to Haitian cuisine. These things are so rare to me these days that at times I would pay almost any price for a taste (by any price I mean, under $19.99).
So upon reading the posting, rather than my usual humor filled answer, I got defensive. I felt an attack on these foods, was an attack on our culture. How can someone not like ble? Ble is my caviar I thought! That’s how excited I get when someone says they have ble. Last year I catered an event for 1,000 plus people in NYC, and guess what I served the 99.99999% none Haitian crowd? A nice bulgur wheat salad with cucumber. Translation: ble. And they loved it. So how can we not love it?
Then I started thinking to myself we do love it! Especially us here in the US and living abroad. It’s almost as if there is a shift between Haitians in Haiti & Haitians in the Diaspora. Haitians in Haiti look down on certain foods (mayi Moulin, pitimi and the like), probably because those foods in Haiti are associated with the poor and the country side. So they try to shy away from these foods. I think there is a specific mental blockage that is created in the minds of poor Haitians against these foods to stay away from it as soon as they have the opportunity. I say this because I remember when I was a kid in Haiti, the first thing that happened when someone from the US sent money was a big meal would be prepared. And it was always rice, cabrit and the like. So for that week when US money arrived, we felt rich, and, not once did we have aranso, mayi Moulin, or lam veritab.
However, I believe that Haitians that immigrated to the US and other countries probably feel more connected to these foods. That’s what we hold to as our memory of home. These foods remind us of our childhood, our grandparents, and our explorations to various places. The tastes and spices are what we hold to in order to remember and connect to home. Since we don’t have labapin and the like on a regular basis, upon eating them, we are automatically brought back home (Haiti) and the existing nostalgia of home causes mainly good emotions and thoughts to permeate.
On a last note, I fear however, 2nd generation Haitians born and raised in the US may not feel this connection. Perhaps many of them see these foods as simply a burden and an interruption to their Chinese food, McDonalds, and other regular favorites. It aches me to go to a Haitian household and hear things like, “oh, Ti Marie or Ti Jean doesn’t eat rice djon djon, and poul nan sos. She/He doesn’t like Haitian food”. How do tackle that? Do we?