Breadfruit: Blight of Captain Bligh

When Captain James Cook entrusted thirty-three-year-old William Bligh (at the time a Commanding Lieutenant) with the HM Armed Vessel Bounty in 1787, breadfruit — not adventure — drove what became an infamous voyage. Bligh and his mutinous men sailed to Tahiti (the largest island in French Polynesia) to bring breadfruit trees back to Caribbean in…

Remembering Haiti Post-Carnival (Kanaval)

In March 2011, Japan suffered an 8.9 earthquake, a magnitude not often experienced. While the massive earthquake last year in Haiti was less on the Richter scale, it nonetheless did terrible damage that is still not wholly cleaned up. The gruesome scenes from Japan turned my mind back to Haiti. In Haiti, the tragic earthquake…

Inroads of Language, Basted with the Stiff-Necked Grip of French Cuisine

The reach of France’s colonial empire extended far beyond a few fur trappers and Hollywood’s stereotype of exhausted  men, rubbing at their scraggly beards, cursing their conscription into the Foreign Legion. Language, not just nationality, impacted millions of people over the centuries. And, I think, cuisine. Food came with that language and made a dent…

Coconut Groves and Coconut Dreams

“Columbus had no idea, of course, of the almost infinite ramifications of his voyages on the way future people would eat.” ‑‑Raymond Sokolov‑‑ Why We Eat What We Eat(1991) Trying to get the meat out of a coconut is like trying to pull a tooth without Novocain, a very painful process. I know—I tried to…

Eat a Meal of Solidarity: Haiti’s Sos Pwa Rouj

As in a nightmare wrought by Quentin Tarantino, I watched the horrors unfolding in Haiti after the earthquake. Hands tied, unable to help in any major way, I turned to my pantry, memories of the lovely Haitian women who cooked for us stepping into my mind, smiling, images of hope for Haiti’s future. Here’s a…

In Haiti, The Four Horsemen Strike Again

Surely all of you now know about the latest disaster to hit Haiti — an earthquake of 7.0 hit Haiti at about 4 PM on January 12, 2010, followed by aftershocks of 5.5 and 5.9. The damage to Port-au-Prince looks like the result of a bombing raid and, indeed, experts say that the devastation resembles…

Notes from Haiti: Restaveks

All around the world, cooks come in many shapes, ages, and dispositions. Many of these cooks are children, mostly girls, working in the kitchens of wealthy people. In some cases, the arrangement veers on the edge of slavery, not employment. And in Haiti, an outright form of slavery still exists. A recent Huffington Post article,…