Posts Tagged ‘Haitian Culture’

Better left behind

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Change When I wrote about the important things that my mother taught me, I was trying to highlight the positive aspects of the Haitian culture. Pretty easy, even though there are lots of cultural habits that bother me. However, when it came down to it I had a hard time coming up with 5 on the other side so, I settled for the following 4:

1) It’s okay to unload your burden. In the Haitian culture, you don’t talk about certain problems; especially those that can potentially reflect poorly on the family. Someone gets arrested, you act like it didn’t happen. Someone gets kicked out of school, you find some story to explain what happened. I understand that thisncones from living in tight-knit communities, but even then it’s not a healthy way to deal with problems. When you’re stressed you need the support of others who genuinely care for you. If you can’t share with anyone you know, then seek professional help (another huge taboo).

2) Question authority. Okay, historically speaking Haitians have a valid reason for taking issue with authority. But somehow, once they immigrate to foreign countries, they become hesistant to do so. Whatever the “law” says goes. Hence, they rarely get involved in community activism and are often afraid to speak out when they see something wrong happening. Immigrants are so easily abused because of their legal status and that fear doesn’t necessarily go away once your status does. I think there are ways that we as a community can start teaching our children, and others around us that it’s not only OK to denounce crimes, it’s our duty.

3) Be curious/creative. A lot of kids from my generation grew up thinking the only way to make your parents proud was to become a doctor, lawyer or an engineer. Creative professions were never considered. I think many people find out what it is that makes them happy by being curious – or wondering what it would be like to [fill in the blank]. I’m encouraging my kids to think about every profession, thoroughly, which is something many young Americans have been forced to do during the Great Recession.

4) Hold other to the same standards you hold yourself. When I took my trip to Boston last week, there were certain people *ahem* family members, who thought that it was irresponsible to leave my children behind. Reason being: I’m the mother and fathers can never be trusted to take care of children. WTF?! Well, I don’t buy this and even though I missed them like crazy, I think the time apart was good for us. How else will the appreciate all the crap I do :-) This one is more of a gender equality change, but I think it boils down to this, if I expect someone to be able to cook, clean, raise kids, etc., I should be able to do it, too. As with any skill, one of us may be better at it, but that doesn’t give you a permanent get out of jail free card.

Are any of these traits existent in your culture/family? Do you think they should change?

How we eat

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

I’m always the first to complain about people’s stereotypes regarding Haitian culture. I hate it when people say “you don’t look Haitian” or “you speak very well ‘for a Haitian’”. I realized that I’m so irritated by these comments that I miss an opportunity to teach others about what makes my culture so great. Better late than never, right? First lesson: how we eat.

Haitians (in general) eat three meals a day with very little snacking in between. Breakfast is usually something pretty heavy like eggs and boiled plantains or even spaghetti. Kids often have a lighter dish like bread and café au lait (yes, we drink coffee as children) or hot chocolate. The picture below is smoked herring (chiktay in Creole) which is sautéed with onions and hot peppers (we mostly use Scotch bonnet). You can eat this with bread or boiled plantains. I like it so much I can eat it throughout the day as a snack with crackers.


Lunch is a pretty heavy meal, as well. Most dishes will consist of rice and beans in some form and meat. Some people also like to include a vegetable such as yuca, plantains or bread fruit. The dish below is red beans and rice, fried pork and plantains. Fried pork (griyo in Creole) is a very common dish sold by street vendors all over Haiti. It sounds easy to make, but there’s a trick used to prepare it that makes it nearly impossible to replicate at home. I think it has to do with the cut of the meat and the spices used.

griot, banane peze, diri kole.

Dinner is usually the lightest meal of the day. In my neck of the woods, we never really ate any rice or meat after 6 PM. It’s very common to have a porridge like the one pictured below made from grated plantains (you seeing a theme here) with some toast. Or, we sometimes had hot chocolate with a baguette. I must note that Haitian cuisine is very versatile in terms of porridges which can also be made from yuca, millet, and cornmeal.

Banana Porridge (Haitian Style)

This is of course a brief explanation and there’s a whole lot more to Haitian cuisine. Don’t worry, I plan on sharing more in the future Guiño; especially the many uses of some of the vegetables I mentioned here. Any fellow Haitians who eat/ate differently at home, please feel free to share.

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