Haitian Joumou soup receives UNESCO protected cultural heritage status: NPR

A famous Haitian soup has received the “protected cultural heritage status” by UNESCO. Scott Simon speaks with Dominique Dupuy, Ambassador of Haiti to UNESCO about Joumou.


Haiti received good news this week. Its traditional joumou soup has been classified as a cultural heritage protected by UNESCO. Joumou soup is a hearty mix of pumpkin, potatoes, squash, beef, chili peppers and other things. And this is the first time that a cultural element of Haiti has received the designation.

Dominique Dupuy is the Ambassador of Haiti to UNESCO and is joining us now. Ambassador, thank you very much for being with us.

DOMINIQUE DUPUY: Thank you for having me. It is a pleasure to be here with you today.

SIMON: Help us understand what this soup means for Haitians and in Haiti.

DUPUY: This soup says it all. And I will explain to you what that means. Soup is not so much about taste, although it tastes delicious. It is a velvety, bright yellow, very tasty soup. It is a vehicle of all Haitian heritage. We call it the Freedom Bowl. During the colony, soup was prepared by slaves for hundreds of years. And they could never taste it because they were considered too uncivilized. Thus, on independence day, the first emperor of Haiti had his wife up and declared that it was now the national soup of the first free black people in the history of mankind. And we’ve had this soup every January 1st for 217 years, kind of like calling every person in the world who is denied freedom, dignity to join this table and share the soup with us, as we have. made January 1, 1804.

SIMON: What a great story. What a beautiful legacy (laughs).

DUPUY: Thanks. I think so too, but I am biased. What I didn’t tell you about the soup – when two neighbors are arguing, you bring a bowl of soup. It is the pledge of peace.

SIMON: Oh, my.

DUPUY: And on January 1 there is some kind of civic duty to bring it to those who don’t have it and those who can’t prepare it themselves – the sick, the old, the orphans, people in prison. It is therefore really the ultimate symbol of coming together, of resilience, of cohesion and of just solidarity.

SIMON: Is there a recipe that you can recommend to us?

DUPUY: (Laughs) There’s a lot of recipes out there. And I like to stress the fact that this entry in no way seeks to summarize a frozen recipe. What you need to know is the lifeblood of the soup, which is the joumou. It’s, like, the pumpkin, as you call it in the United States.

SIMON: Turban squash is the word – it’s the sentence I read, yeah.

DUPUY: Turban squash. And you need vegetables. You must have some type of meat, whether it be goat, beef, or even pork. Some people put chicken in it. Now almost every recipe you will find includes some type of pasta.

SIMON: You were visibly moved when you accepted this award for Haiti – help us understand what was going on in your mind and feelings.

DUPUY: It’s a mix, a mix, a cocktail of a lot of emotions. First of all, pride. As a people, when you go through years and years of collective trauma, you are constantly in a state of adaptation. And there is this famous word that we use so often. You have to be resilient. But resilience comes at a price. For me, this inscription reminds us of our humanity, our fragility but our strength when we come together. And also, when we just accept that we are worthy of always bringing something – in this case, literally to the table. And also, there was a feeling of repair. There are hundreds of countries with cultural heritages listed, and yet a name was missing. Haiti was not on this list. How can a country like Haiti, which has contributed so vitally to world history, be missing from a list that showcases the diversity of the world? There was no better way to have a starter as strong as with this element, with the soup, with all that it embodies.

SIMON: Dominique Dupuy, Ambassador of Haiti to UNESCO, thank you very much.

DUPUY: Thank you very much, Mr Simon.


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