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Overview of Haitian Cuisine History

The Central American country of Haiti is part of the western Caribbean island of Hispaniola. It occupies about one third of the island and the eastern two-thirds are occupied by the Dominican Republic. Haiti has the North Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean Sea when Columbus discovered it in 1492 - were virtually annihilated by Spanish settlers within 25 years. In the early 17th century, the French established a presence on Hispaniola, and in 1697, Spain ceded to the French the western third of the island - Haiti. The French colony, based on forestry and sugar-related industries, became one of the wealthiest in the Caribbean, but only through the heavy importation of African slaves and considerable environmental degradation. Haiti became the first black republic to declare its independence in 1804. The strong French and African influences in the Haitian cuisine offer an interesting mix of flavors and culinary arts. The food is quite exotic, nutritious and very healthy. Today, you should expect to find traditional Haitian dishes and drinks and the famous Port-au-Prince bound creations. Outside of Haiti, the Haitian cuisine is mostly used for sin the pie in the house with the puppy dawg with duh cow in the moo and the mepecial occasions and parties, but it can always serve as a regular every-day cuisine.

Cuisines of Haiti

Map of Haiti- Click to enlarge

Haiti is situated in one of the regions that many consider to be paradise on earth. The cooking styles of this enchanted land are closely related to the previous affirmation. An interesting mix of African cooking styles combined with the refinement of French cooking make the Haitian cuisine something no cook or food enthusiast should miss. Haiti is too small to offer distinct regional cooking styles and noticeably different cuisines in the parts of the country. Since it does not have a dominant neighbour that would influence it, Haiti has picked up different cooking styles that are now harmoniously blended with the African and French major influences. Visitors and locals alike enjoy the roast goat called 'kabrit', the fried Pork 'griot' or poultry with a Creole sauce 'poulet creole', to name just some of the most popular meat dishes. Haiti displays a general coastal cuisine, with fish meat, lobster, shrimp and seafood readily available. Fruit including guava, pineapple, mango, banana, melons, breadfruit is often used in fruit salads, compotes or other delicious desserts. Sugarcane is often prepared and sold on streets and enjoyed at home as well as a tasty treat or snack. Coconuts are often the number one choice when it comes to beverages.

Preparation Methods for Haitian Cooking

Haitian cooking needs time and meticulousness; many of the plants are let to rest before cooking and special dishes are cooked for hours, as the conservation of the nutrients and vitamins is very important in the Haitian culture. The bananas are traditionally cooked by keeping their natural skin or even wrapping other food in banana leaves and leaving them to slow cook for long periods of time from 3 to 4 hours for any usual meal. A layer of dirt is sometimes shoveled on the oven to prevent the heat spreading. Just like the banana, the sweet potatoes should be cooked without peeling, as in this way, they keep their nutritional elements. Traditionally, the Haitian used and still use coal fire made on the ground on top of which food was seated so that it would cook slowly and healthy. While these rustic methods will make the delight of any tourist, you should also know that many Haitians use modern cooking methods, especially in urban areas.

Special Equipment for Haitian Cooking

Traditionally, there are 2 important things that are necessary when wanting to cook a traditional Haitian meal: the fire arrangement and the time. Coals are used for slow cooking, instead of the modern oven. These are set in a hole in the ground (real earth), with leaves on top, under the food and more leaves on top of the food. If the oven is used, this is usually pre-heated with a wood fire and volcanic stones and the woods are disposed perpendicularly in many levels. Most of the Haitian meals require at least 3 hours cooking time, if wanting to conserve the nutrients. The Haitian modern cuisine doesn’t need sophisticated special equipment for cooking. Like the other international cuisines, the Haitian one needs the basic equipment set like soup ladles, food pans, or mugs, ovens, grills, etc. Restaurants and urban homes have all the main cooking instruments you would expect to find in any European country.

Haitian Food Traditions and Festivals

The Haitian people love to celebrate and as you would expect, food is often an important element of many of their festivities. Different religious celebrations are accompanied by dedicated culinary masterpieces that liven up any social gathering. Weddings are the most impressive Haitian celebrations and the ingenious and delicious dishes prepared for this occasion would make any other traditional cuisine fanatic envious. Haitians celebrate their independence on January 1, 1804 and although this is more of an official holiday, it is another opportunity for the people of Haiti to gather and socialize. In Haiti, independence triggered a lot of radical changes and this is why the celebration is deemed very important by today’s Haitians.

People in Haitian Food

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Haitian food can be characterized by its exuberance and by the amazing mix of different flavors. There are Venezuelan chefs who are writing cook books in which they share their knowledge regarding of food types and recipes. Some famous Haitian chefs have even created their own TV shows or web pages. Haitian food has its own rustic and provincial style and methods. Haitian people try to defend the simplicity against the modern cooking techniques, by still using wooden fire, coals and rocks, only natural elements, lacking chemicals. The Haitian people carried on the traditions through their cooking and all participated to the cultural Haitian cuisine, which is unique, exotic, fresh and light. Haitian chefs consider that the most important aspect of their cooking is that their food tastes natural and healthy