Growing up, ushering in a new year meant spending all day at church fasting until midnight (don’t ask) and then gorging ourselves on soup joumou. Haitian soup joumou, or pumpkin/squash soup, is the signature dish of Haitians on January 1. Ask to eat anything else on that day and you will be glared at in disapproval.
Yes, we do the typical new year rituals: We’re happy that we’ve lived to see another year. Our grandmothers pester us to tidy up the house so the previous year’s dust and tragedies don’t follow us. But besides that, January 1 is also Haitian Independence Day.
Haitians are a proud people. One of our most famous accomplishments might be being the first Black republic in the world. Do you know how inspiring it is to know that our ancestors claimed their own liberty?
A legend that our parents and grandmother would share with us and our sisters each year was that back in the Olden Days, we were not allowed to drink the thick, delicious heartiness that is soup joumou — it was strictly prepared for the white masters. So when we fought for and won our freedom, we started to cook the liquid gold for ourselves.
Our book Dear Haiti, Love Alaine which publishes Sept. 3, 2019, even mentions eating pumpkin soup on January 1. So, without further ado, here’s our grandmother’s recipe for Soup Joumou. We couldn’t get her to be more specific than this, so yeah:
Soup Joumou Ingredients
- 2 pounds of cubed beef chuck cuts
- 2 pounds of cut oxtail
- 1 pound of cow foot
- 1 Cabbage
- 2 boxes or medium packages of noodles, she’s partial to ziti and spaghetti but let the spirit move you
- 2 full kabocha squash, the golder flesh the better
- 3 stalks of celery
- Olive oil, eye it
- Butter, a healthy slab
- Spices (a whole other conversation but let’s go with thyme, garlic, scallions, parsley)
- 7 red potatoes
- 4 carrots
- 2 large yellow yams
- 3 malanga or taro
- 2 turnips
Soup Joumou Instructions
Clean, season, and marinate the meat with limes, bitter oranges, garlic, vinegar, shallots, scallions, and thyme. Boil the meat for 1.5 hours. Add water and the vegetables (except potatoes) for approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Peel the joumou and puree with some water. Add to the boiling pot and mix with other ingredients. Wait until the stew is about 10 to 15 minutes from being ready to add the potatoes so they’re not overcooked. Finally, eat and celebrate Haitian Independence Day!