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Appropriation: It’s What’s for Dinner

Haitian Joumou Soup — non-fat vegan recipe

I haven’t cooked on a gas stovetop since early 1999, when we bought the current house. Top of my want list for a new home should we move has been a gas stove. Alas, in recent months media stories claim that cooking electric — no matter the source of the juice — is cleaner than straight-up methane.

Not only that, gas’s cooking superiority is reputed to have been merely a longtime marketing ruse. I’m not ready to believe that; these investigative reports quote authorities, documents and PR experts but seem to overlook interviewing chefs.

A couple of weeks ago, a tantalizing chunky soup, “joumou,” popped up in the news when it was added to the Representative List of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage project, representing Haiti.

Researching it online I saw its uniqueness but with basic parts. Picture butternut squash soup hitting it off with minestrone.

Joumou (pronounced joo-moo), though cooked throughout the Caribbean, is the dish to serve on Haitian Independence Day, January 1st.

Eureka! A dish with historic and progressive history to add to my New Year’s menu. It’s not my tradition though, not having any connection to the island nation.

What about Hopping John, the American or Southern traditional New Year’s Day dish? Its origin is not mine, either, its roots being African, brought to America by slaves.

I hate to drop my Hoppin’ Ben from the parade-and-bowlgame celebration, so I adapted the joumou recipe from Sweet & Sorrel a couple days prior. Fortunately, the imaginary Cuisine Appropriation Safe House includes a virtual kitchen.

The online recipes for joumou frankly are all over the map, even disagreeing about the kind of winter squash. All the gourd types are to be cooked down and pureed so why not a can of pumpkin (not sweetened pumpkin pie filling)? That saves at least a half hour!

This makes 4 to 6 servings as an entree, perhaps with salad and a bread. Use gas or electric; finessing the heat is needed for stir-frying more than simmering.

  • 5-7 cups water, hot in a kettle, divided use
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin
  • 1 cup diced potatoes (any kind, unpeeled or peeled)
  • 1 cup diced carrot (about 1 medium)
  • 1 cup finely diced onion (about 1 medium)
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage (see note)
  • 1 cup diced bell pepper, any color
  • 2 cloves minced garlic OR 1/2 teaspoon dried garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger OR 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • Scant 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes OR chipotle powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, to start
  • 2-3 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend, divided use
  • 1 cup uncooked short pasta
  • 1 Tablespoon lime or lemon juice
  • Hot sauce, for the table
  1. In a 3-quart or larger saucepan or Dutch oven, bring 4 cups of the water to a boil. Add the pumpkin puree, then pour 1/2 cup more water to its can, stir than add to the pot to get out all the flesh. Mix well.
  2. Add to the pot the ingredients through the salt. Add 1 teaspoon of the Italian herb blend. Return to boil, reduce heat to low to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until a cube of the potato is just tender.
  3. Add 1 more teaspoon Italian herb blend, 1 cup of hot water and the pasta. Return to boil then reduce heat to medium. Cook the soup the number of minutes indicated on the pasta box, usually 6-8 minutes.
  4. Take pot off burner. Taste to see if a little more salt is needed and add if desired, along perhaps with a 3rd teaspoon of Italian herb blend. Add a bit of water if desired to thin. Stir in the lime juice and serve.

Notes

  • Because a large onion or a large carrot has almost no meaning, I’m calling for basic volume measures. This is a soup, so precision is not as needed.
  • As a Caribbean dish, joumou should be spicy hot. I suggest hinting at heat with that dash of dried red pepper above then having a bottle of hot sauce to pass around the table.
  • On the cabbage, for convenience use part of a bag of plain, undressed coleslaw. Broccoli slaw would be a worthy substitute. Other alternatives would be a packed cup of frozen chopped spinach, kale or other frozen greens, no need to thaw.
  • I prefer green bell pepper mainly for the color contrast it provides but also its bitter note. Red bells just add more sweet.
  • In the prep stage, I place the veggies as I chop them in 4-cup measuring cup or food-storage container. When it’s heaping, you’re done.
  • The pasta can be penne, rotini or even elbow macaroni. To boost the vegan protein, a lentil or similar dried legume pasta or Barilla Plus is a good option.
  • The Italian spices are up to you, instead of preblended. It could be just dried oregano or thyme. I don’t recommend dried rosemary because the soup doesn’t cook long enough to soften. Fresh rosemary would be great, chopped. The flavor of basil probably would get lost.
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