Haitian flag day & Pikliz, the ubiquitous Slaw that elevates foods to another level

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Today is Haitian Flag Day. This year marks the 214th anniversary of the “bicolor” flag. The beloved flag was adopted on May 18, 1803, in Arcahaie. It is said that Jean-Jacques Dessalines created the flag by taking the French flag, ripping the white section from it. This symbolized the breaking away from the French colonial masters. Catherine Flon, Dessaline’s God-daughter, was asked to sew the flag together, symbolizing the new Haiti. The blue portion representing the black citizens and the red representative of the colored or mixed race citizens of Haiti.

The flag changed colors and styles several times in the history of Haiti. The beautiful flag today has two equal blue and red panel, with a square white panel in the center containing the Coat of arms. The regal royal palm holds center stage and beneath it stands a drum. It is flanked on either side by a cannon and six bayonets with the Flag, three on each side. The caption is “L’union Fait la force” or “Strength in Union”. The last change was adopted in February 1986, after the exile of Jean-Claude Duvalier               (Baby Doc), when the Duvalier dynasty flag of Black and Red with the coat of arms was removed.

Often, the glorious and rich history of Haiti is undermined by the images and negative publicity to which we often fall victim. Many do not know the rich and moving history of Haiti, and the glorious revolution which caused ripples all over the Americas and ushered in a movement for other countries to follow suite during the early 19th century. May 18, serves as a reminder of the sacrifice and struggle which the forefathers made to win independence for Haiti and gave birth to a nation. This was no easy feat for a relatively small indigent army against the French, a Superpower of the day. Many fail to realize that many of the officers instrumental in this siege were well-educated, highly trained soldiers. The heroes of Haiti’s Independence they were a mixture of people of all colors, creeds and social backgrounds. They were bound together by the unified belief that they wanted to lead the country to freedom on their terms. France lost control of the” Pearl of the Antilles” and their most valuable sugar and coffee colony.

In 1825, France pressured Haiti to accept restitution payments for the loss of slaves, and plantation lands. This agreement was made in exchange for France’s acceptance and acknowledgment of Haiti as a Sovereign republic. Initially, France had demanded the sum of 150 million francs. This was reduced to 90 million francs and was meant to be paid in 30 years. The debt of Independence cost Haiti greatly and had repercussions far deeper and longer than the fighters of 1804 could have ever imagined. It took 110 years to pay for freedom; a value of over $21 billion in today’s value. All sorts of accumulated debt and interests plagued the young republic. The ensuing years would bring great upheaval for Haiti, including a long and bloody dictatorship over two generations.

Today, many know about Haiti from the 2010 devastating earthquake and the equally disastrous recovery efforts to rebuild by NGO’s. But, here are some undeniable facts about Haiti. It is a land of great and diverse beauty. The abundant Mountains, valleys, and plains all have their own unique character and charm. Haitian people are among the most creative that I have ever encountered. Everywhere you can see a people who are rich in culture and make strong expressions in art forms, music, and delicious food. People here exist often on very little, but with whatever they possess, they use their creativity and passion to make it work to the best of their ability. Haitians are hard workers; their resilience has always been key to overcoming hardship. I feel that we have what it takes to make this country great again. To still dream the dream of the ancestors of making Haiti, the “Mother of the Americas”, a great and progressive country. We just need to look at the flag and remember the motto, ” L’union Fait La Force”.

Happy Flag day to all Haitians… nap rivé!

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I thought it appropriate to share my recipe for Haitian pikliz. This tasty and spicy slaw is found in every household. There is no creole dish which is served without a generous portion alongside. It is a staple with the national dish Griot ( fried pork pieces) and fried crushed green plantains ( bannan pézé). I hope you enjoy this.

PIKLIZ

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Makes 1 large portion

INGREDIENTS

1 head of cabbage (heart and hard veins removed), sliced finely

3 carrots, sliced thin or shredded thin

1  Vidalia onion or 1 white onion, sliced thin

4-6 scotch bonnet peppers

2 radishes sliced thin

3 tsp salt

2-3 cups vinegar

1 tsp black pepper

METHOD

In a large mixing bowl, put all prepared sliced vegetables

In another bowl, mix the vinegar, salt, and pepper

Mix the vinegar mixture and pour over the vegetables. Incorporate well and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour before serving.

You can also put this in a clean glass bottle and store in your refrigerator for up to a month.

If bottling, please ensure that there is enough vinegar to cover the vegetables completely when in the bottle.

Pikliz is great with all types of fried or grilled meats, Serve with all types of fried foods the way you would serve a Caribbean style pepper sauce.

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