JANUARY 11, 2015
THE NAMING OF A COUNTRY
Everyone that knows Haiti through the words of the Press knows that this country comes with a last name: Haiti. A very long last name. Rarely do you ever see “Haiti” in print with out its full moniker. it’s maddening really. For the world to give her a label that sticks like that one has.
I’m such a stickler for words. what we call something matters.ONce you are called a name, no matter how confidant you are, you start to believe it is true. That is why my kids were never allowed to call each other “push down” names. i told them every time they called their brother a name it was like planting a little flag in their arm or chest or head. “They will wear those little flags for years, and might even start believing what they say, how sad would that be? ” i would tell them. Our house had very few rules, but on this one i was ferocious. To the point of corporal punishment. One day, when they were still young after too many warnings and stern looks, i had had it. I realized i had physical pain in my gut every time they impaled one another with unkind remarks. I pulled out the proverbial wood ruler and called them in close. ” Ok. you see this? This name calling has to stop. From now on , every time i hear you plant an unkind remark on your brother, i will take this ruler and put it in your hand you have to take it and … slap my arm. Because words Do cause pain and this way you can feel the reality of that. ”
The End. Of name calling. In the brooks home. ( at least within my hearing !) i hope i don’t get arrested for child abuse over that one. Ahh, but i have fled the country !
Back to our beloved Haiti with the really long last name. IF your country has its fame because of its poverty, what becomes of you? You’ve been named. i am not saying poverty is not a reality here. Don’t misunderstand, we are deeply familiar with the strangulation of poverty and injustice and broken systems that make you want to pull your hair out or hurl a burning tire. We walk in that kind of dust and see that desperation in faces everyday. But, that is not the whole story. There is so much more than that here.
That is why I was both stunned and overwhelmed with gratitude last week when Keith Schroder and Ken Jacobsen from High Road Craft Ice Cream visited us. Keith, for the first time and Ken, his third trip. What stunned me was what they saw.
They started their first morning on motorcycles, Keith driving our little yellow Apollo. Beaver and Ken led the way on the trusty red Sukida. They went down our road, through the city, into Jubilee, past the school, the gazebo and the clinic, through the trash piles and other ” stuff” …all the way out to the salt ponds beside the sea. They got off the motos and walked to the edge of the basin where two women were at work harvesting and washing salt. Beaver jokingly asked, ” you guys want to help them? ” YES ! was their quick response. They rolled up their pants andkicked off their shoes and slid down in the salt pond. After the women scolded them for stirring the water and making it cloudy, they were welcomed into the process of rinsing the freshly harvested salt. A fast way to make friends in the salt flats of Jubilee.
From there they ventured to Benson’s leather workshop. They had both met Benson early November in Georgia. It was a sweet reunion as they reveled in his ingenuity and spacious atilier.
Next stop: the local Market to buy for the evening meal. They met up with Mdm. Evans, and followed her into the meat section for fresh goat. The meat market is an experience that takes “fresh” to a new levels. All the meat here walked itself in that morning. She carefully chose the cuts and then moved on to find all the fruits, vegetables and spices we needed
“so, first impressions?” i asked as soon as they got back and we all took a lunch break that consisted of a cool drink and a pack of local crackers. ( one cracker each ! we were really trying to impress this famous chef ! )
Keith had already shown himself to be a man of choice words and deep thoughts. So i was all ears.
“Abundance… I see abundance.”
i was stunned. i gasped, took a deep breath. I think there might have even been tears in my eyes.
Beyond the dust and garbage in the street and the naked kids on that side of town, he saw it.
Later, after dinner he described the experience of preparing the meal with Mdm. Evans. (who also happens to be one that cooks for the school kids in Jubilee each school day) He described her as the absolute best home cook he had ever worked with. “she handled the meat with the reverence and honor, as it should be given. She incorporated five steps of food safety BEFORE it ever went in the pot. She bathed it hot water, drenched it in citrus juices, painstakingly cut every bit of undesirable bits away, rubbed it in fresh spices and carefully washed it off. And then, and only then, she let him help her ! ha!. “she has just the right balance of humility and sass. Just what you want to see in a Chef !
There is a great movement now to Re – imagine Haiti. See her more clearly. See the beauty of the people, of the land and the sea. See her beauty and give her a new name.
PS. I hope he doesn’t mind me saying this, but this is Keith’s new cookbook. I bought it for Beaver for an early Christmas Present. Probably a little selfish, as we get to enjoy the result of him trying out recipes…and the adjustments he makes with local fare are amazing. so if you’re looking for a entertaining cookbook that explains stuff like, what is the difference between “sweating, searing, sautéing, pan roasting and braising” and teaches you the secret of ” mad spicy harissa” this is it. Beaver loves it. I think it is written in “man” !