Good Eats in Haiti

Submitted by John DiTillo, The Haitian Project Volunteer (’08 Volunteer – Present)

Haitian rice and beans with steak and mango salsa –a delicious, organic, can’t-get-more-local-than-this meal. Every couple of weeks a bull lumbers onto the Louverture Cleary School campus and lives on our soccer field for a few days, awaiting his inevitable induction into a savory sauce. An honorable raison d’etre–to help nourish the bodies of Volunteers, students and staff working toward the common mission of manifesting the Gospel to rebuild Haiti. We need all the protein we can get. One day, however, the meat almost made a break for it…

It was a Friday evening, after a long week of working with our hands, minds, and hearts. The Volunteers and staff decided to play a friendly game of hide-and-go-seek in the dark to unwind. One Volunteer was hiding stealthily in the shadows of a mango tree when she saw a figure in the low-light up ahead. A seeker? No. A phantom? But do phantoms have horns? With a shriek, the Volunteer announced her alarm that next week’s lunch seemed about to make minced meat out of her: “The bull’s loose!”

She made a beeline for the nearest building. The bull had broken free from the soccer goal and trailed his rope along the ground behind him. Fortunately he was a typical Haitian bull–with a mild temperament–and much less interested in goring than munching. He shrugged off the Volunteer’s screams with a snort and turned his attention to the tasty tropical foliage. This hubbub brought the rest of us out from our hiding spots, and we set to wrangling the livestock. A comical chase ensued, and the humans eventually recaptured and easily guided the beast back to the soccer field. If it takes brawn to “prepare” the meat, it takes brains to prepare the rice for this dish. US Volunteers tend to require a few bad batches to get the hang of cooking rice for a community of 25. But ask any Haitian, and they’ll show you how to make a perfect pot of rice every time. It’s a science and an art. Finally, the salsa.

Our school’s campus is covered with mango trees in multiple varieties. Springtime is mango season, and each new day brings a fresh load of mangoes falling from the heavens. The best ones, ripe but not overripe, turn a mouthwatering tint of orange/ gold. The nimblest among us will climb the branches and pick the choicest mangoes by hand, or you can harvest them with a well-aimed basketball. If the mangoes should fall and splatter to the ground–no worry. Pick them up and rinse them off, as gravity and the Provider have already done the harvesting for you. Simply call on your trusty cordon bleu to add some chopped peppers and spices, and in no time you will have the freshest mango salsa on earth.

Recipe for Mango Salsa
From Betsy Bowman
Yield and time: Portions here are pretty flexible. Quantity is usually determined by how many mangoes/tomatoes etc were available. Everyone usually got two spoonfuls full. In terms of time, the hard part is hunting and peeling the mangoes.
5 mangoes. It’s best if they’re not overripe. Err on the side of under ripe. Dice into small cubes.
5 tomatoes. Dice them small.
Scallions (pwa wo) – wash them and dice them. Include a lot of the green stems for color.
6 cloves of garlic. Dice it and sauté it in some oil. If you can get a few white onions to dice up and add to the garlic, that’s great too. Don’t cook the onions too much though- crunchy is good.
One can of corn. Drained
A little oil (1/4 cup) – if you can get your hands on olive oil … yummy.
Some vinegar – about ¼ cup
Salt to taste.
Dice it all, mix it up, stick it in the fridge
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