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Garlic sizzles in a big Dutch oven. As Peggy Brunache stirs, the aromatic softens and starts to take on a sweetness in the hot oil.

Soon, meat that’s been marinated in sour Seville orange juice and epis—a medley of onions, bell peppers, herbs, salt, and yet more garlic—will hit the pan. These ingredients stew in a mix containing Scotch bonnet peppers and pumpkin and butternut squash that stand in for a winter squash grown in Haiti.

This dish, called soup joumou, dates back at least to the early 1800s, a time that coincided with the Black Haitian struggle for independence from the French empire. It has become a beloved symbol for Haitian freedom from slavery, savored every January 1, Haiti’s Independence Day.

It’s our resistance and celebratory soup,” says Brunache, who is Haitian American. The dish is also her favorite of the stewed meals—including callaloo, pepperpot, and gumbo—that appear across the African diaspora.

A historical archaeologist at the University of Glasgow, Brunache has investigated the meals that enslaved African people created in the French Caribbean, food that she calls “slave cuisine.” Through excavations on the islands of Guadeloupe, she and her colleagues have catalogued bones and shells, and analyzed remains of pottery to clue into the ingredients and types of food enslaved people cooked for themselves.

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