Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hatian Soul Food

So yesterday's class on Haiti was a blast. We had three guests, Ndanu Mbunga, Muthoni Njogu and William Njau. Ndanu baked for us pen patat - a sweet potato pudding (picture left), while Maya Wanjiru, one of the students, did a superb job with making the pikliz, a kind of salad which has pepper (who would have thought?) that had some of us running for water. Before eating, Maya went through the list of the recipes, during which we shared our surprises and joys making the recipes. Like how long they took to prepare.

I spent Thursday night making the poule en sauce (chicken in sauce). It was quite the experience doing it the Haitian way, especially the cleaning of the meat. From the Haitian cooking website that Maya had shared with us, I found out the elaborate process of cleaning meat with lime, and a hot and then a cold water rinse, which goes back to the days when there was no refrigeration. It took me over three hours to finish cooking, but the recipe was delicious.

After eating, Nina shared with us a brief history of Haiti, from L'Ouverture and Dessalines, through the Duvaliers (Papa and Baby Doc), to Aristide (Titid). What surprised me was that when it came to explaining how Haiti suffered the earthquake, we were not discouraged - we were empowered by Hatians' pride in their history and their resilience. I think the food had something to do with it. By discovering how elaborate the recipes were and how much we'd learned about Haiti by just cooking and tasting great food, we connected with a side of Haiti that we could not have known from just the media alone. It was just a magical experience.

Bonaventure shared with us some comparisons between Haitian creole, French and African words. He will be continuing his presentation on the language and music of Haiti next week. So it wasn't just what we ate that become our food for the soul. It was the history, the fellowship and the knowledge as well.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ayiti cheri!

I am always excited to talk about Haiti, the first black republic of the modern world!

This week we will discuss the revolution, and look at the tragedies, triumphs and strength of character of the Haitian people. We will also cook some Haitian recipes, and look at some of their best in writing, fashion and music. Thanks to Maya, we have a menu

  • White rice, 
  • Sos Pwa
  • Mayi Moulen
  • Pikliz
  • Poule en Sauce (chicken in sauce)
  • Bouillon
  • Pen Patat (sweet potato pudding)

We'll also look at the fashion and style inspired by Haitian heritage.

This beautiful dress inspired by Haitian heritage is from VeVe Collections.

I found this wonderful song by Mika Benjamin "Ayiti se" which is a tribute to this great country. A translation of the lyrics can be found here. Enjoy the song.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Historical survey of France

The first three weeks of the semester, we're looking at the history of France up to the time of Napoleon. Our main text is by The History of France by Scott Caine.

Last week, 5th September, we began by looking at how far the French language has spread in the world, thanks to this map by the OIF (Organization internationale de la Francophonie)

We also discussed the major themes such as:

a) Pre-Roman Empire period (with the Gauls and druids, made famous in popular culture by Asterix)
b) Origins of the French language (its Celtic and Latin roots)
c) The medieval period and feudalism
d) The French revolution
e) Napoleon
f) The Franco-Prussian war
g) French colonial history
h) The world wars, and their legacy
i) de Gaulle
j) May 1968