Haitian cooking night reminds us of our roots and lets us give back

Senegal Mabry | 5/5/2016, 12:39 p.m.
Thursday, May 19 you will have the opportunity to attend the class “Cook Like a Haitian” in Brooklyn, N.Y. The ...
The Haitian Flag

Thursday, May 19 you will have the opportunity to attend the class “Cook Like a Haitian” in Brooklyn, N.Y. The event will be hosted by the Court Tree Collective, a group of Carroll Gardens-based artists who are dedicated to sharing new and exciting cultural events with the local community. They have hosted other cooking events in the past, such as a Vietnamese night, and they are planning to run their own middle school camp for 10 days in July. This event, “Cook Like a Haitian,” gives us the opportunity to celebrate Haitian Heritage Month. Students will learn how to prepare a traditional family meal, such as Akra or Diri Djon Djon (black rice), and will learn more about the culture of Haiti.

The instructor of the event is Cindy Similien-Johnson, a Haitian-American board member of the United Nations Association in Brooklyn, which focuses on publicizing the efforts of the U.N to help a diverse array of humanitarian causes. She is also the author of her own cookbook series, which shares the same title as the upcoming event, “Cook Like a Haitian.” Similien-Johnson remembers as a child “sitting at a table in a backyard filled with banyan trees. For breakfast, I had meals like Mayi Moulen [cornmeal] with Sòs Pwa Nwa [black bean sauce]. As I got older, somehow I got disconnected from my roots.”

As time went by she decided to rediscover her Haitian heritage and became a master of cooking a panoply of cultural recipes she learned from the women in her family, especially her 106-year-old grandmother. She hopes that the event will inspire people to learn more about the Haitian culture as well as their own family traditions.

Events in support of Haiti and its vibrant culture are especially important after the massive natural disaster of January 2010, which took the lives of nearly 220,000 people and dislocated many more. Although there have been improvements in Haiti after the event, the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act passed by the U.S. legislative branch in 2014 and the document commissioned by the secretary of state entitled “Status of Post-Earthquake Recovery and Development Efforts in Haiti (2015)” tell us that there is still a long way to go in the recovery process.

Although millions of dollars were raised for the Haitians, most of the money was allocated to the treatment of cholera patients when an outbreak began one month after the natural disaster. With the help of the United States government the rate of contraction for the disease has significantly decreased, but many people still remain displaced in their own country. That is why Similien-Johnson has promised to donate a portion of her earnings to help support Anseye Pou Ayiti, also known as Teach for All, a national charity that fights malnutrition and provides a quality education for struggling Haitian children.

Classes such as “Cook Like a Haitian,” an event that serves the purpose of providing aid to the less fortunate, remind Similien-Johnson of an African proverb that says, “We must go back to our roots in order to move forward.”

The event will be held at 7 p.m. at 371 Court St., 2nd Floor, Brooklyn, N.Y. and promises to be a night of fun and food as well as a celebration of the Haitian culture and its vast roots. For more information about the event or future events sponsored by the Court Tree Collective, visit their website at http://courttree.com/. For more information about the “Cook Like A Haitian” cookbook or its author, visit https://cooklikeahaitian.wordpress.com/. To learn more about the charity work of Anseye Pou Ayiti and to donate directly if you are unable to attend the cooking class May 19, please visit their website at http://anseyepouayiti.org/en/.