“So, what are we eating?”. Whenever this question arise among my friends the debate that proceeds is usually one for the comic books. So people will throw out different options from pizza, to Italian, to Thai, Sushi and beyond.
Then there is always that one person. That sole person who will look at us as if we have horns. One such friend is a friend by the name of Jean. It doesn’t matter how many options we have, to him, there’s only one option: Haitian food.
The fact that Jean’s culinary repertoire has remained so stagnant is not for lack of trying on my part. I remember once dragging him into one of my favorite places in Brooklyn called Veggie Palate.
Everyone I had ever taken there, loved it. Most would swear that you wouldn’t even know you were eating a vegetarian meals. Their soy chicken nuggets were as close to the coup as one could get without going in. Their mango chicken was so authentically tropical you’d swear you were on a tropical island. But not Jean.
Everything he tried, too sweet, too hot, too this. Till this day I think The Thai people have some of the best palate ever for inventing such well balanced meals, where flavor reigns supreme but no specific ingredient is ever too empowering.
A few years back, a group of us took Jean to Negrils. We figured, after all, Jamaican food was as close to Haitian as perhaps one could get. We ordered him the fried snapper, rice, plantains- the works.
After eating about half of his plate, he looked up at us and exclaimed, please let me know when we will be leaving here so I can leave room to get some real food.
At first we thought Jean was just being difficult. But, honestly we realized, to him, no food would ever come close to Haitian cuisine. And honestly, that had to be a mental block.
My argument use to be that to compare different kinds of cuisine is almost like comparing apples and oranges. Just like every fruit has it’s own distinct and unique taste, so does every countries cuisine, they are all good in their own right.
It’s a matter of getting your palate accustomed to different flavors and than your palate will start to appreciate different cuisines. But perhaps my argument is wrong.
When I think about it, it doesn’t matter how often I eat apples. I can never grow to like them. So perhaps all these world cuisines we keep trying to stuff down Jean’s throat are his apples?
Nadege Fleurimond is the owner & business manager of Fleurimond Catering, Inc., www.fgcatering.com, an off-premise catering firm serving the NY/NJ/CT/MA areas.