Haitians celebrate their independence on New Year’s Day by gathering to consume soup joumou, a spicy, pumpkin-based soup. Dudley Alexis wanted to learn why, and this extremely informative documentary dives deep into the island nation’s past, revealing that the plight of Haiti really charted the course for much of the world. See libertyinasoup.com.
When did you realize that this soup you’ve known your whole life was ready for the big screen?
It all started with a conversation I had with a taxi driver about the soup. What was surprising about the conversation is that the taxi driver was not Haitian. I would never think that someone that is not of Haitian origin would know about the soup. I think that is when I realized I need to tell the story of Soup Joumou and share with everyone.
This is a great vehicle for showing the world that Haiti is not just a poor country, but one rich in culture and history, particularly in the plight of people of African descent. Was that your primary goal of this film?
My primary goal with the movie is to educate and open people of Haiti’s rich history and culture. To go beyond the stereotypes and what they hear about Haiti in the media and news. To also show that the Haitian revolution was major turning point in not just Haitian history and the history of people of African descent but the history of humanity.
It is also a film that empowers the role of women in carrying on tradition, particularly this culinary tradition. How are women respected in Haiti in general?
It is hard to answer that question. Haitian women have always been strong figures in our society and history. From Cecile Fatima, who was one of the main organizer of the rebellion that sparked the Haitian revolution, to Ertha Trouillot, Haiti’s first woman president that went on to organize a free democratic election and smoothly transfer power to Jean Bertrand Aristide. We tend to forget their names or leave them in the background and I think we do that to women in general. It’s time to tell their story.
How does the soup taste? Is it catching on in any American kitchens?
Delicious! A little spicy, hearty. I get hungry think about it. Slowly, I see the popularity of the soup growing more and more outside the Haitian community. They would taste it from a Haitian friend and they would ask for the recipe and go on cook it themselves.
Is Haitian cuisine becoming popular in other parts of the world? Aside from the soup, what other delicacies are there?
I can say yes, especially in cities that have a decent Haitian population. Soup Joumou is my favorite but my second favorite is grilled conch.
Do you think that the rise of food culture in the United States is an important part of embracing multiculturalism?
Yes. It is one of the best ways to experience a culture. Everywhere food does its basic thing: it brings family, friends, strangers together sitting at a table. And at the table, we all get to know each other.