1 Potato, 2 potato, 3 potato…no Meat?
For the pass couple of months, I have been toying with the idea of being a vegetarian. No reason in particular, simply as a way to force myself to broaden my food choices. I asked myself, if really I couldn’t eat chicken, fish, cabrit or pork, what would I eat? I challenged myself to find out.
I realized in the Haitian community, vegetarians are looked upon almost as favorably as thieves or heretics. And amongst older Haitians, that attitude is prevalent. Upon arrival to a friends house, I informed her mother I am not eating meat. After she looked at me with that distinguishable Haitian look of disgust, she simply said, “You kids are always trying to be like these crazy white Americans, don’t you see they are full of problems”. Who knew amidst the discussion of assimilation and Americanization, not eating some griot for a while would be part of the dialogue? Indeed, it was. Later in my vegetarian exploration, I went out with a friend to a restaurant, and he ordered some fried goat and I got myself some white rice with sos pwa and some macaroni au gratin. As he raved about the tassot, he went to put some in my mouth and I quickly pulled away. He looked at me again with that disappointed look. His eyes were glaring at me as if to shout, SELLOUT.
What is the big deal I asked myself. It’s me that’s no longer eating certain things, why is everyone so disappointed and upset with me. But then I started to figure it out. The disappointment wasn’t so much in the fact that I was a vegetarian per say, but more so in the fact that I was rejecting, what appeared to be, part of Haitian culture. It’s rare to encounter a Haitian born in Haiti to tell you that they don’t eat this, or they don’t eat that. That is such an American thing to do.
The other side of it is this: food is indeed a bonding experience among friends, family and lovers. So to be sitting around a dinner table with someone who simply can’t have this, that or the other, is a tad bit, to say the least annoying. I have since added seafood back into my diet, however, the journey helped me re-discovered a variety of foods from my childhood in Haiti that I had almost forgotten. In my determination not to eat rice everyday, I was forced to explore. I got reintroduce to Yuca(Manyok), Plantains, different yams, and other starchy root vegetables, Spinach, Pigeon peas, variety of soups, mayi Moulin and spinach and wide array of other tropical staples.
Being in this country, we are spoiled with the abundance of affordable meat options at every corner. While you may not want to lead a vegetarian lifestyle, exploring the option for a day or two may help rekindle your love affair with some of your childhood favorites. Mazonbel anyone?