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kind of Foodie Friday: Haiti.

January 15, 2010

My dad went to Haiti a few times when i was younger. I was going to go with him in 9th grade, but the plans were cancelled due to (increased) violence and instability. He is not an especially personally expressive person, but i would venture to say that his trips there were among the major amazing events of his life. I think he had more to say about the people he met for one week there than most of the people we’ve known. We, of course, talked a lot of politics regarding Haiti as well. But first, along with all that, he came back raving about the pumpkin soup they had – a pumpkin and peanut soup, actually.

So, first, the food:

Pumpkin soup, two versions.

I don’t have a recipe for that soup (nor do i remember for certain if i’ve had it). So, i consulted the google, which told me that there is no Haitian pumpkin-peanut butter soup. There is Haitian pumpkin soup, though, and, separately, pumpkin-peanut butter soup. I know, i wouldn’t generally post links to recipes i’ve not tried, but this is one of the first things that comes to mind when i hear of Haiti.

Haitian Pumpkin Soup: Soup Joumou – this is a meaty pumpkin soup, which seems to be an uncommon variation. It is also the celebratory successful slave-revolt against the French soup.

Pumpkin-peanut soup – this is not so historied, but it sounds delicious.

Now, to more pressing matters:

Others have already done a better job than i could in explaining the why and how and best ways to help out with the disaster relief effort in Haiti. So, i’ll just say, please do follow that link.

Not to in any way detract from the importance of disaster relief, or the amazing work done by the people and organizations involved, or the fact that you should help out (click above!), but these sorts of major-disaster situations bring out my cynical side. I know it’s supposed to make me feel all solidarity-pride-and-hope because everyone cares. To me it simply serves to emphasize the fact that no one cared before, and likely no one will care again in 6 months.

Moreover, by not caring (or not speaking out) we are directly at fault – hurting as compared to only not helping. I can only speak to the “we” as Americans; i don’t know the broader politics well enough to spread the blame farther. The United States has done a great deal of harm – some purposeful and some incidental to thoughtless good intentions – in Haiti. And many of the same concepts hold in other third-world countries as well, but as the 2nd poorest nation in the world Haiti is a stark example (plus, i know a bit more of the details).

There is the fairly straightforward uncalled-for meddling in the affairs of a democratic government not our own. Meddling is not the proper word, because, given the US’ political and economic position in the world, meddling is almost automatic. However state-supported coups and installing undemocratic governments in the name of democracy and in the interest of only our own political and economic power…i don’t think i can express my disdain for the way our government has interacted with south and central america (and much of the rest of the world).

But let’s move on from well-documented conspiracy theories and state-sanctioned war and murder, shall we?

The United States’ good intentions with regard to international aid are pathetically backwards. We aid countries that are poverty-stricken, which is good. But extreme poverty in a country is generally directly linked to a very fragile economy (as well as similarly extreme corruption). The general form of US aid is “here, have some stuff that we know you need.” It has the advantage, to us, of being a very simple system. So obviously, it doesn’t work (something about simple answers to complicated problems). The problem is, what that amounts to is, “here is some stuff for free to compete with the stuff that your very fragile industry is trying to sell for a profit.” Where before your farmers may have been struggling, now they are nonexistent, which means that much less money and commerce flowing through the community. The more dire problem is that if your food aid pulls out, it leaves behind it a void in which there is less food produced in the country than there was before they showed up. Your country that was struggling with poverty and hunger is temporarily boosted by aid, but left with worse poverty and hunger after the fact.

Frankly, while i try to stay fairly informed, international affairs is not really my cup of tea. Community organizing and development are, and, barring very specific causes, i think charity does more harm than good.

Very specific causes like disaster, which requires immediate and straightforward response, and is not (in the immediate aftermath) at all about long-term planning. So, i don’t at all retract my statements about the importance of helping, in what way you can, the earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

if this weren't tragic enough already, this is a kind of amazing visual: the border between Haiti (left) and the Dominica Republic (right).

-Lady Brett

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