What is Haitian Independence Day?
January 1st marks Haitian Independence Day when revolutionary, Jean-Jacques Dessalines “the father of Haiti,” pronounced that Haitian-born slaves were free and independent from colonial French rule. General Dessalines and an army of “les gens de couleur libres” (free people of color) defeated the French military and declared Haiti a free republic. On January 1,1804 Haiti became the first black free independent republic nation in the Western Hemisphere.
Before emancipation, Haitian slaves were forbidden to eat joumou soup or squash soup, a delicacy reserved for white French slave masters. After winning the war, to commemorate Haitian freedom, the newly-emancipated Haitians celebrated by preparing squash soup. This act symbolized freedom, independence, and pride.
In keeping with this traditional ritual, many Haitian families in Haiti and throughout the diaspora prepare the soup every year to remember the freedom that their ancestors fought for. Usually, the matriarch in the family will prepare the ingredients the night before and actual cooking takes place on the morning of the 1st. It is believed that eating joumou soup on January 1st serves as a blessing for a prosperous and healthy new year.
Joumou is not only served on New Year’s Day but is reserved for important milestones and events in Haitian life. Usually served on Sundays when the family gets together or at a funeral reception, the soup is believed to help restore and revitalize the body, a symbol of fortification and strength.
Joumou Soup Recipe
Adapted from A Taste of Haiti Expanded Edition (Serves 8-10 people)
- 2 pounds pumpkin/squash peeled, cut into large chunks
- 2 pounds beef neck bones
- 1 lime, cut in half
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed and mined
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 green pepper, sliced thin
- 2 tablespoons Haitian pikliz
- 4 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 10 cabbage leaves, cut into 4 pieces each
- 2 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 to 6 whole cloves
- ½ cup penne pasta or macaroni
- 2 potatoes, peeled, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 large turnip, peeled, cut into pieces
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper
- Salt, pepper, and more herbs to taste
- Cook pumpkin over medium heat in 6 cups of water for 30 minutes.
- Clean meat with lime juice. Marinate meat with scallions, onion, garlic, shallots, green pepper, pikliz, salt and black pepper.
- In stockpot, add the meat with 1 cup of water and cook covered, over medium heat for 40 minutes.
- Add 3 cups of water and pureed pumpkin and bring to a boil for 40 minutes.
- Add celery, cabbage, carrots, and whole cloves. Cook, uncovered for 20 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients. Cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and more herbs to taste.