We're back from a relaxing Christmas in Jacmel, a historic town famous for its artists on Haiti's southern coast. It was a chance to get away and unwind after what has been a fairly uncomfortable third trimester for me, with pretty non-stop nausea and vomiting (sadly, a reprise of my 1st trimester). Thankfully, our little baby is resilient and has been doing well through it all, and we are just a few weeks away from meeting him/her. Paul has been an incredible support through my many nauseous mornings, afternoons and evenings, but it turns out that I didn't have the market cornered on stomach issues. Paul ended up driving the winding mountain roads from Port-au-Prince to Jacmel in the midst of malaria fevers and chills, interspersed with rounds of vomiting. After four hours driving stick with steep hairpin turns, I've never seen Paul so happy to get out of a car. Our first taste of salty ocean breezes and fresh seafood seemed to have done us well. Once we were feeling better, we perused Jacmel's famous paper mache artists, took in the historic architecture, and went swimming in the ocean. Below are a few pictures from our trip to share the flavor of the place.
3 Families After Hurricane Matthew
High in the mountains above the Artibonite river, we pass through villages and clusters of houses that do not appear on maps, past destroyed houses that will never make it into official calculations of the damage fromHurricane Matthew in Haiti. We are miles from the nearest paved road, many hours from the nearest medical clinic, and nearly a full day's walk to the market where people normally sell their produce to purchase necessities like medicine, oil, and clothing. When I asked the local government official with us, why his region showed zero damage on the latest UN maps, he grew angry, "How would they even know? No one has come up to look. No one has even asked." Working with the local governments, community organizations, and a likeminded NGO, we are bringing the first relief supplies to people whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in this area. Within 72 hours of the rains stopping, all our prepositioned aid (water treatment supplies, blankets, food, and hygiene kits) have been distributed to people in need. This is only the beginning for these families on the long path to rebuilding their lives and their communities.
If you've been watching the news on Haiti, you know of the devastation that Hurricane Matthew has wrought; the rapidly rising death toll, the destroyed homes and livelihoods, the statistics of suffering on a massive scale. But for us, and for our organization MCC, the story both begins and ends with the resilience and perseverance of the people and communities we serve. These are human stories better told through pictures of people, pictures of dignity and strength in the face of loss.
Here are the stories of three families after the storm.
Cooking as a Couple: 10 tips
Even for people who love to cook, cooking as a couple can be a uniquely unappealing proposition. Many couples find the kitchen too crowded, the opinions too many, the timing too tight, to share the reins with someone else. Becoming a well-oiled machine in the kitchen takes practice, patience, and strategy. We've found it well worth the effort. We've been been cooking and eating together for over 10 years now, and since we have just about a month left before we leave our galley kitchen in Pittsburgh for Haiti, we thought we'd share the top 10 things we've learned about cooking together as a couple [...]
First Days in Haiti
Our first taste of Haiti has been sweet. We have had a warm and supportive welcome, with friendly, generous co-workers, delicious home cooked meals, many helping hands to get us set up for prenatal care, and mountains of patience from everyone around us as we make our first faltering attempts at speaking Creole. We have been loving our first meals in Haiti. A favorite, today's lunch, was a rich and savory pumpkin soup, called Soup Joumou; a justifiably famous dish often served for Haitian Independence and New Years Day. We will be staying in the guesthouse above our office (pictured above) for a few more days until we head to the countryside, north of the capital in Desarmes, for a three week homestay; an immersive experience that will help to jumpstart our Creole and introduce us to rural life in Haiti.
Stay tuned over the next several weeks as we share some delicious recipes we prepared before we left the US.
Cooking lessons in Kristan
We are back in the capital, Port-au-Prince. We recently returned from a homestay with a family in the small farming community of Kristan, a 45 minute hike into the mountains from the town of Desarmes where MCC (the organization we are working with) has long-standing agroforestry projects. After busy days filled with Creole lessons and project visits, our host family would indulge our curiosity with many patient explanations, hikes to garden plots, and hands-on cooking lessons. There are some things you can learn by reading, but for others, there is no substitute for the sensory experience: crouching in cramped charcoal-smoke-filled kitchens; hearing the sound of a hoe's blade spark against rocks filling the small garden plots on which many subsist; feeling the welcome rush of a cold bucket bath after a hot walk up steep mountain paths; coming to terms with the humbling reality of clumsy tongues forming words in a new language. Below are a few pictures from our time to share the flavor of the place. We will be thinking of our family and friends far away this Christmas as we celebrate here in Haiti, Merry Christmas!
Cashews: Journey to the Table
As people who love to cook, it's easy to focus on food's transformation in the kitchen. But living in Haiti, and working alongside farmers, reminds us that the vast majority of the risk, effort, and artistry that goes into food's journey happens long before it reaches us in the kitchen. Take cashews, a nut I've always found delicious. You can find a thousand recipes for what to 'do' with cashews in the kitchen, in fact we have a few on our blog, but today I want to focus instead on their journey to the kitchen -- from fragile seedlings in mountain-top nurseries, to the freshly roasted cashew nuts for sale in market stalls.