Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Unusual foods, extraordinary flavors

Elimene did most of the cooking. Here's she's making
coconut milk from a fresh coconut.

Haiti Chronicles Part 8

Quietly, discretely, Adam leans toward me and holds his spoon up. "Do you see what this is?"

I look. It's a round piece of something on his spoon. I don't know what it is, but it came from a delicious bowl of chicken stew made from poultry butchered and cleaned just hours earlier in Desab, a mountain village in Haiti, where I've lived for the past few days.

"Look at it. Can't you see?" No, still can't.

Then he turns it over in his spoon and I see, immediately. It's a little skull. A little bird brain that's been boiled right along with the peppers, dumplings, coconut milk, plantains, taro root and potatoes Elimene prepared as a special gift to say "thank you" for wedding pictures Julie took the day before.

Adam Pitzer and Julie Rumo are board members of Stone by Stone, a small non-profit working alongside the villagers here to get a medical clinic sustainable, without outside intervention. This week, we're here to paint the medical clinic, sort out donated medical supplies and build a trust with the people so they can believe we are serious about working for them and not instead of them.

Our cook rubbed these fish with
 oranges and lemons, then
 marinated them for a day or more.
Adam asks me to keep our discovery just between us because, I guess, of that trust we are trying to build. No problem. I'm living without running water, without electricity, sleeping in a concrete room visited by at least one tarantula and a chorus of crickets, where two Haitian men sleep on the floor to protect us (I don't know from what). So eating homemade, delicious, indigenous food is a great gift I treat with humble respect, even if it yields  surprises.

This big pot of mais moulin (sweet
corn meal) simmered uncovered
for an hour.
And it does, on many fronts (although none as unusual at the chicken stew.) We enjoy goat  stew, coconut rice with congo peas, a fish stew for breakfast, a flavorful pumpkin soup I'm told is a special New Year's meal, carrot and eggplant stew  over mais moulin (a sweet corn meal), a banana soup and red beans and rice. 

I take notes on all of the meals and actually become a pest in the kitchen, asking the women to show me how they cook. But they do. Graciously. I take copious notes. Snap pictures. I want to recreate these delicious, unusual meals. They are just that good.

So I think I'll have a dinner party, some time this fall.

And not just any dinner party.

I want to organize a fundraiser for Desab, preparing and serving food the way the Haitians do (minus the skull). Maybe even write a small cookbook. I'd like to serve up enough goat stew and banana soup and sell enough cookbooks to pay for a kitchen inside the clinic.

I can dream, can't I? Details to come.
This little pot of goat meat simmered for
two hours. Goat is tough, like beef stew,
unless cooked a long time.
Haiti Chronicles Part 9: The men of the mountain unite for an exciting future

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