Growing up in Queens, NY, I never really realized how many traditions my family had. Both of my parents were born and raised in Haiti, an island filled with culture, and they worked hard to bring that culture into our home. Often times it could be seen during the meals we ate, where there was always a little taste of Haiti in the traditional dishes. While we ate dinner every night together, Sunday dinners were usually more traditional, and on holidays we usually had a special meal.
When we’re gathering for a holiday, my large extended family comes over to eat and spend time together. Many Haitians are religious and family-oriented, so we’re always trying to find ways to get together, especially as my generation gets older and starts to move away from home.
We go to services, socialize, and sit down to dinner. Before we eat, we always give thanks for our blessings, and for being able to enjoy a meal together. The meal usually includes a wide array of traditional foods, including macaroni au gratin (baked macaroni), riz au petit pois (rice and beans), poulet sauté ou avec sauce (chicken in sauce), salade, steak au poivre, and sauté de petits legumes (meat with vegetables). The conversation is always in a mix of English, French, and Creole, and the topic can range from jokes to politics to discussing what everyone has been up to.
I didn’t grow up in Haiti (although we used to visit every summer to see the half of our family that is still there), so family dinners and celebrations make me feel connected to my heritage. The food and culture feel familiar to me because of the traditional meals I’ve enjoyed at home, and I know that these traditions – family dinners, holidays, and coming together as a family – are things that I will carry on to my children.
Interested in cooking Haitian dishes? Check out HaitianRecipes.com.