August 7, 2022

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Haiti "Gomo soup" is a historical dish with a taste of freedom

Haiti “Gomo soup” is a historical dish with a taste of freedom

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Puerto Principe (AFP) – Haitians combine meat, vegetables, pasta, and squash jeromon, from which it takes its name, “jomo soup,” formerly forbidden to slaves, to be enjoyed every year on January 1st by Haitians who symbolize their country’s independence.

This soup, which has just been listed as a World Heritage site, has long been synonymous with oppression on the island of the Caribbean: many slaves were forbidden to grow the pumpkin necessary for its preparation, and its taste was reserved for the owners of French plantations.

But on January 1, 1804, when the first black republic was born, Marie Claire Heureuse Felicie, wife of the first Haitian leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines, decided to serve this dish in large quantities.

Cooking this soup “was a way to celebrate these years of deprivation and oppression and to declare victory over the colonists,” says Natalie Kardashian, while she was buying all the ingredients to make the national dish at the market.

“That’s the weight of this soup,” she adds seriously.

Rosmin d’Orseus prepares a traditional soup, on December 31, 2021 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Richard Perrin, AFP

It also represents a moment of family reunion. Something complicated for many this year.

– Insecurity –

In 2021, after recording the assassination of its president on July 7 by an armed commando, Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake. Political turmoil and poverty, as well as kidnappings, intensified the work of the gangs, which became very powerful.

Insecurity and inability to use roads guarded by armed gangs force many Haitians to spend the New Year far from their loved ones.

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“I have friends at the university whose parents don’t live in Port-au-Prince and they can’t meet them in the provinces because of the security situation,” explains Stephanie Smith, a student from DC. “So I invite you!”

A bowl of traditional soup, January 1, 2022 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
A bowl of traditional soup, January 1, 2022 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Richard Perrin, AFP

His mother, Rosemin Dorsius, often prepares “jumu soup” for her family, but on every national holiday, she brings whole pots.

The 54-year-old Haitian estimates enough to feed “a number of people”, while her daughter believes the amounts can be enough for about thirty people.

“There are eight of us in my family, but unfortunately, there are people in the neighborhood who can’t make soup, so we think about them,” the 27-year-old explains.

Work in the kitchen begins the day before, and even before the dawn of January 1, the women of the family are busy around the stove.

Rosemin Dorsius remembers those days when the children were young, she and her husband would make soup together. “Now that my daughters are grown up, they are the ones to help me,” he says.

– ‘Imitating our ancestors’ –

This soup with a rich history has just received international recognition, being elevated to the status of Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

“Haiti’s struggle and its voice were invisible and today is a means of recording it,” considers Dominique Dupuy, Ambassador of Haiti to UNESCO, who recalls “the fundamental and vital role of Haiti in the history of mankind,” the first country to abolish slavery.

The dedication of Jammu soup constitutes, in her opinion, a “historical just correction.”

Rosmaine d'Orseus prepares a traditional soup on January 1, 2022 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Rosmaine d’Orseus prepares a traditional soup on January 1, 2022 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti Richard Perrin, AFP

He said that his delegation was making every effort to include it in the register, and requested an expedited processing of the file in August. On December 16, he finally got an A.

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Since 2021 has been an “exceptionally painful year”, she said residents need “mechanisms to help us keep our heads up”, said this city of Cap-Haitien, a city mourned on December 14 by the explosion of an oil tanker that cost life of 90 people.

In Haiti, cooking “jomo soup,” a custom that dates back more than two centuries, is a way to pay homage to your country and its past.

For Natalie Kardashian, it’s a way of inviting the world to “discover the history of Haiti,” and a way of showing “how proud we are, that we fit in and perpetuate the traditions of our ancestors.”