I like to make an entirely vegetarian version of this recipe in which I replace the meat and bones with coconut milk (one can of 400 milliliters, about 13 oz). I also throw in more spice: about 3 green onions and 2 shallots, and I sauté these together with the garlic and onions before adding them to the broth. This is important to release the flavors and perfume the kitchen, because the flavors from garlic and onions dissolve best in oil. Hard-core carnivores usually flip over my soup. Yeah… life is definitely worth the fight! Bon appétit!
Dady Chery, Editor
Renewal 4 Haiti
Throughout their reign of terror, the French forbade Haitians from drinking pumpkin soup. It was considered to be a delicacy far too sophisticated for a slave’s palate. Therefore as a symbol of freedom, all Haitians, no matter where we are on the planet, drink a pumpkin soup called soup joumou every January 1 since our ancestors defeated the French and declared independence in 1804.
Yep, you read that correctly!
But hear me out as I lay out the context. Quick history lesson.
It all started with Toussaint L’Ouverture, a self-educated former slave. After England and Spain invaded Haiti, then called Saint-Domingue and 100 percent controlled by the French, Toussaint made a pact with France to fight the Spaniards and British off the island. The man was a military genius. He managed to train an all-slave army, expel the invading forces and give control back to France and himself. The slaves were freed. Toussaint issued Haiti’s first Constitution in 1801.
The French were not having it, so Napoléon Bonaparte sent a large expeditionary force to restore French rule. When it became clear to all Haitians that the French were bent on re-establishing slavery, the revolution reignited. From 1801 to 1803, battle after battle was fought. Toussaint was promised his freedom but was deceived. He was seized by the French and shipped to France. He died imprisoned at Fort-de-Joux. His famous last words:
“En me renversant, ils n’ont abattu à Saint Domingue que le tronc de l’arbre de la liberté des noirs. Il repoussera par des racines parce qu’elles sont profondes et nombreuses.” | “In overthrowing me, they have only felled the trunk of the tree of black liberty in Saint Domingue. It will regrow from the roots because they are deep and many.”
Nevertheless, on November 18, 1803, the last of the French forces were defeated at the Bataille de Vertières, and on January 1, 1804, exactly two hundred and eleven years ago, General Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared Haiti to be a free republic: the first black-led nation in the world and the only country whose independence had stemmed from a successful slave rebellion.
What does this history have to do with pumpkin soup? Everything! Throughout their reign of terror, the French forbade Haitians from drinking pumpkin soup. As a symbol of freedom, all Haitians, no matter where we are on the planet, drink soup joumou every Independence Day. They have done so since January 1, 1804.
It is a day the whole world should remember and celebrate.
The best and most authentic recipe is below.
Enjoy and Happy Haitian Independence Day!
Sources: Haiti Chery (photos, vegetarian version) | Renewal 4 Haiti (original recipe)
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