For many Haitian Americans families, celebrating both New Year’s Day and their country’s independence can only be done right with a large pot of soup joumou. The pumpkin beef soup is a traditional meal that aims to nourish the entire family for the year ahead. Soup joumou was originally a delicacy enjoyed exclusively by French slave masters. After the slaves gained independence on January 1, 1804, the soup became a staple on every Sunday table as well as a traditional meal for New Year’s Day.
A revolutionary soup that connects to the roots
Miami’s Chef Pierre Bonhomme Moise shared with National Weekly about how his family helps to keep the revolutionary spirit alive through native cuisine.
“Independence gatherings are thought to include a large pot of soup joumou. Soup Joumou is spiritual, delivering flavors of hope, renewal, and love of culture. It’s a Sunday soup, but it’s not a revolutionary soup,” said Moise. “Tchaka is a soup variation that’s made with beans, corn and roasted squash. It’s a very hearty soup that the Europeans were not able to digest. Every component of the tchaka, every ingredient comes from Africa. It’s a soup that reminds us literally of who and what we are, to remind ourselves of the kings and queens that we came from.”
A Healthy Boost from New Year Cuisine
People wanting to start the New Year off on a healthier note may want to consider a traditional Haitian soup. With a base of calabaza or kabocha squash, soup joumou offers a power punch of Vitamin A and C to boost the body’s immunity and healthy skin, hair and nails. If you’re cutting down on meat, the tchaka offers a more a little more variety with corn and other vegetables. Some variations also include salted or smoked meats.
“A true traditional chaka is all vegetarian,” added Moise. “It’s a lot healthier, it reminds you of every ingredient that we had to grow – all of the seeds that we left Africa and came to the Caribbean with – and that’s why we see all of these beautiful soups and foods from the Caribbean and people ask where did it originate from? Africa. That’s the soup that reminds us literally of who and what we are.”
To our Haitian American family throughout South Florida and the diaspora, we wish you a Joyeux 214ème anniversaire d’indépendance.