Diaspora

Unforgettable Bakery in Savannah celebrates Haitian independence – Savannah Morning News

Along the bottom of the Haitian flag lies the following word: “L’Union Fait La Force,” which translates to “Unity Makes Strength,” a strength that many Haitians have earned and embraced over the course of their history.
Jan. 1, 1804, marks Independence Day for Haiti. The once French-ruled country that is known for its coffee, sugar plantations, and cacao trees has a dark and resilient history all tied to the cash crops of the land. Prior to the revolution led by Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Haiti faced enslavement during the Transatlantic slave trade and many of their people native to the land endured bitter and harsh conditions at the hands of their European monarchs and slave owners.
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Though stolen from their intellectual pursuits, ideologies, and resources, the Haitian people knew the landscape of their villages. Also, with the influx of Africans brought to the Caribbean provinces to serve as field hands for the growing sugar canes among various plantations, a cultural tie to food and tradition created families among the natives and their brethren. One of those items included their connection to food.
Soup Joumou is a combination of buttercup squash that is condensed to a broth, with celery, carrots, beef chunks, plantains, and noodles, it was a signature dish prepared by the enslaved for their slaveholders.
Though the recipe has changed to include additional ingredients, such as dumplings and even goat, this meal was a favorite among the elite. Serving as more than just a dish of nostalgia for the Europeans, this dish also served as a bitter recipe for the unfair and demoralizing treatment that many Black ancestors had to endure. The aromatic soup that is slightly mild and bold in flavor was also one that was not allowed to be made or shared with the enslaved people. After the revolution, when Haiti received its independence, the soup served as a farewell salute to their European captors and a history of resilience that is best served with history lessons and pride in the Haitian culture.
Belinda Baptiste of Unforgettable Bakery + Cafe has been keeping the tradition alive in Coastal Georgia with the celebration of Haitian Independence Day known as Soup Joumou for the ninth year in a row. According to Baptiste, the Haitian legacy carries volume in the Savannah area; the Haitian monument in Franklin Square honors the men from Haiti who volunteered to fight in the Siege of Savannah.
“Soup Joumou is a cultural moment of the diaspora that takes another form,” said Baptiste. “And if you put Soup Joumou in any Google search, you will see so many articles about its history that parents can pass down to their kids.”
Baptiste said traditionally in Haiti each family and village makes their soups differently and that when you enter the aunties or grandma’s home you are greeted with the soup and a few dollars for safekeeping. This freedom soup in December was awarded protected cultural heritage status by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). And it is being prepared by Baptiste and countless volunteers within her shop. 
In Belinda’s soup, she incorporates green squash known as buttercup squash that she reduces into a broth, celery, carrots, malanga, beef chunks seasoned in traditional epis which is a Haitian seasoning made with herbs, peppers, garlic, and vinegar, and spaghetti noodles. 
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The traditional celebration held by Unforgettable Bakery + Cafe also encompasses storytelling by the local griot Lillian Baptiste, as well as history lessons and activities for families in her shop. However, due to COVID-19, the 2022 event will be a carry-out meal celebration where participants will receive the Soup Joumou, Haitian bread, and a cup of traditional Haitian hot chocolate that is made with ginger and cinnamon giving it its bold taste for a small donation. This donation will go to help those affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Meat pies will also be sold separately. 
The carry-out event will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 1 at Unforgettable Bakery + Café, 238 Eisenhower Drive. Donations accepted for Haitian earthquake victims. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., there will be a discussion focused on the Kwanzaa Imani Principles. Though this is a carry-out event, there will be limited seating available outside in response to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.
For more information, visit Unforgettable Bakery + Cafe Instagram page @unforgettablebakery or call 912-355-6160. 
Martina Yvette produces the Dine and Dash videos for Savannahnow.com. Contact her at adashofthat1@gmail.com. See more columns by Martina at savannahnow.com/entertainment/dining/.
What: Annual Soup Joumou Celebration
When: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 1, soup will be served, donations accepted to help Haitian earthquake victims
Where: Unforgettable Bakery + Café, 238 Eisenhower Drive
Contactunforgettablebakery.com, Instagram @unforgettablebakery, or call  912-355-6160
More: From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., there will be a discussion focused on the Kwanzaa Imani Principles. Though this is a carry-out event, there will be limited seating available outside in response to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases.

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