Health & Fitness
Health & Fitness
Joining traditions like the Inuit drum dancing and singing of Denmark, the grass-mowing competition custom of Bosnia and the reggae music of Jamaica on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list are a number of world-renowned culinary offerings including Italian pizza, Korean kimchi and Turkish coffee.
Just a few months ago, soup joumou (sometimes referred to as giraumon soup) from Haiti was added to the list.
Named for the Haitian squash (which translates to “pumpkin” in English) that typically serves as the core of the dish, soup joumou was prepared by slaves for their French colonizers for hundreds of years. Deemed too uncivilized to appreciate the soup, the slaves were forbidden from having any of the food they had carefully prepared. That changed on January 1, 1804, when revolutionary leader Jean-Jacques Dessalines led a successful rebellion against Haiti’s colonizers and declared his country’s independence from the French. To celebrate their new found freedom, soup joumou’s creators enjoyed the product of their labor for the first time. Since then in recognition of Haitian Independence Day on January 1, soup joumou is made and shared among neighbors, family and friends in Haiti and around the world.
A Massachusetts native who grew up enjoying his family’s traditional Haitian recipes, Chef Chris Viaud now serves up authentic cuisine from his family’s homeland at Greenleaf and Ansanm in Milford, New Hampshire. Among the offerings on the menu authored by Viaud, who made a name for himself as a competitor on the 18th season of Top Chef, is soup joumou.
“On January 1st, we eat the soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner and sometimes into the following week,” Viaud tells InsideHook. “But in a lot of households, it’s a common food that’s made on a daily basis throughout the year. It’s full of flavor, love, and passion and there’s a rich history behind it. It’s definitely amazing to see the recognition that the soup itself has been getting over the past couple of years.”
Viaud knew the history behind the dish and grew up eating it, but only just learned what went into his mom’s soup joumou.
“I can honestly say in my 31 years of life, I do not remember a year I have not eaten the soup,” he says. “It wasn’t until recently that I started to learn what actually goes into it and how to make it myself. Over the past couple of years, I definitely have been leaning more towards doing a fusion of what I’ve learned in my culinary training and diving more into my heritage through food. I’m still learning my food identity and seeing where I can now adapt some of the things that I have been learning from my parents about Haitian cuisine.”
And although not all the traditional ingredients Viaud’s family used in Haiti are available in New Hampshire, the young chef is still able to make an authentic soup joumou because one thing his area is not short on is squash.
“Joumou absolutely needs to have squash in it,” he says. The most relative one we can find up here is actually kabocha squash. Oftentimes we get that from a local farm and use that as a base. If you can’t find that one, then butternut squash is close. It has that rich sweetness and starchiness, The squash pairs with the remainder of the vegetables, which include onion, celery, garlic, potatoes, leeks, carrots, cabbage and turnips. It’s just a hearty root vegetable soup.”
Here’s how to make it at home.
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