Saturday, March 10, 2012

Wine Club ... Yon Lannwit Pase Nan Yon Tablo Fanmi Ayisyen

Nou kontan anonse ke dine nan klib diven pou mas pral yon aswè nan yon tablo fanmi ayisyen ... or, as we would say, we are pleased to announce that the wine club dinner for March will be an evening at a Haitian family table.

Haitian cuisine has been strongly influenced by the Spanish and the French, as well as by Africans and Taíno Amerindians.  The Arawak and Taíno first left their print on Haitian food, cultivating fruits and vegetables including guavas, papayas, sweet potatoes, pineapples and corn.  The Europeans then left their mark on the cuisine, introducing oranges, lemons, mangoes, rice and sugarcane.  The last ingredient also left a further mark upon Haiti, as Europeans brought slaves from Africa to work on the sugarcane plantations.  Those Africans also contributed to Haitian cuisine, including the introduction of ingredients like taro root, pigeon peas and okra.  The Africans also introduced beans and rice, which has become one of the staples of cuisine for the everyday Haitian.

We are hoping to draw upon these influences to present a four course Haitian dinner for the wine club.  Our challenge is to try to make some of the dishes that might appear on the tables of an average Haitian family. 

The First Course: Accra.
This is a very simple start to the meal, with grated malanga (or taro root) made into fritters.  This dish exhibits the African influences on Haitian cuisine, because Accra is the Haitian version of Akkra, a Senegalese dish in which the fritters are made with black eye peas. 

The Second Course:  Soupe aux Pois Rouges.
The name translates to "red peas soup," although the dish is actually made with red beans rather than red peas.  Other ingredients, such as scallions, shallots and garlic, help to provide additional levels of flavor to this soup.  

The Third Course: Griots with Diri Kole ak Pwa. 
The main course will actually be two dishes.  The first dish is Griots, a pork dish.  A pork shoulder is marinated for a few hours before being boiled until it becomes very tender.  Before the pork is served, it is fried in a skillet until browned on all sides.  The Griots will be served with the national dish of Haiti ... Diri Kole ak Pwa, also known as Ris et Pois or Rice and Beans.  This dish is made with very cheap ingredients, which makes it available to most Haitians, and is full of carbohydrates.  While Diri Kole ak Pwa may be the national dish of Haiti, it is sometimes the only dish served at a dinner.

The Fourth Course: Bonbon Sirop.
For dessert, we will be making Bonbon Sirop.  This dish is something akin to a Haitian brownie, made with ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, molasses and vanilla extract.  The dish completes the Haitian (and, more generally, the Caribbean) experience with a little rum being added to the sugar, water and butter used to make the glaze.  

The irony of presenting a four course meal exhibiting the cuisine from the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is not lost upon us.  For that reason, we will be donating the cost of the food to a charity.  We know well and have previously donated to Just Haiti, a non-profit dedicated to peace and sustainable development in Haiti.  Just Haiti works with subsistence coffee growers and their families to bring Cafe Lespwa (a type of arabica coffee) to consumers here in the United States.  Just Haiti works to ensure that the farmers receive a fair, sustainable price for their crops and is also working to help the farmers manage the coffee-processing themselves, rather than have middlemen do that.  Just Haiti's work is helping these Haitian farmers to overcome the economic injustice that has kept them in poverty.

As always, the menu is subject to change depending upon the availability of the ingredients.  (I am tracking down malanga or taro root as I write this post.)  We hope you can make it!


("Haiti" image is from Design for Haiti.  "Just Haiti" banner is from Just Haiti.)

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