In the United States, a soup with a taste of cultural appropriation

Giraumon (a variety of squash), beef, vegetables, pasta and spices are part of the traditional joumou soup.

A personalized and vilified recipe

On the sidelines of its special edition for the end of year celebrations, published on 1er December, the magazine Enjoy your meal, culinary spearhead of the American press group Condé Nast, with a monthly circulation of 1.5 million copies, has published on its website a recipe called “joumou soup”. Many Internet users were moved by the absence of certain basic ingredients of this traditional dish of Haitian cuisine, such as giraumon (a variety of West Indian pumpkin with dark green skin), beef and pasta. Worse, the Bon appétit recipe adds caramelized nuts or maple syrup. Among the readership from the Haitian diaspora, the publication creates unease. Especially since the recipe was written by Marcus Samuelsson, a Swedish chef of Ethiopian origin, which led the review to be accused of “cultural appropriation”. The editors apologized, deleted all reference to the joumou soup, renaming it “pumpkin soup with spicy nuts”.

A national culinary emblem

If the “appropriation” of this dish is controversial, it is because it is not just any dish. “Joumou soup is in our blood, in our DNA, a Haitian chief is moved in the part of the site of Enjoy your meal reserved for comments. To disrespect this soup is to disrespect our culture, our flag. ” Each 1er January, in addition to the New Year, Haitians celebrate the independence of their country, proclaimed in 1804 at the end of a decade of bloody revolts and more than a century of colonial and slavery French presence. But, after the stroke of midnight, the hugs and the exchange of greetings, there is another tradition that no Haitian derogates from: the tasting of a large bowl of Joumou soup. If you eat and share with your loved ones this invigorating dish, a true national culinary emblem, on this specific day, it is because its history is intimately linked to that of the Republic of Haiti – and the few hours that followed. the birth of the world’s first free black republic.

A symbol of liberation from the colonial yoke

In the aftermath of the declaration of independence, Marie-Claire Bonheur, wife of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, leader of the Haitian revolution, speaks publicly to encourage the population to consume a dish that the slaves of the plantations had prepared until then. for their masters without having the right to taste it: the joumou soup. In the space of a day, and for all those to come, this creamy mash, essentially composed of joumou – the Creole name for giraumon -, beef, various vegetables, a mixture of spices and pasta, has become a culinary symbol: that of overthrown colonial power, national unity and regained freedom.

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An avalanche of criticism

This controversy surrounding the recipe for Joumou soup is just the last straw that broke the camel’s back. Enjoy your meal is frequently criticized for its lack of inclusion and representation of people of color – on the pages of the magazine and within its workforce. In June 2020, its editor, Adam Rapoport, was forced to resign after a 2004 photo of him, crudely made up as a Puerto Rican rapper, resurfaced. In the process, a scandal breaks out when we discover that the color columnists of the YouTube channel of Enjoy your meal (followed by over 5.3 million subscribers) are grossly underpaid compared to their white counterparts. The editor-in-chief of Enjoy your meal has since been entrusted to Dawn Davis, a black woman from the publishing world recognized for her commitment to better representation of minorities.

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