PIH Board Member Chef Jody Adams Visit to Zanmi Beni to work with cooks and bakers
In September 2015, I spent 2 days at Zanmi Beni working with the cooks at Pwason Beni and Boulanjri Beni. I had been invited by Loune to bring recipes to the team, using familiar and available Haitian ingredients in new ways.
At Pwason Beni, 6 or 7 of us gathered around the prep table with knives and cutting boards and concentrated on knife-work for the recipes. Working together we chopped lots of onions, garlic and tomatoes. The cooks were focused, accurate and enthusiastic. The tone was serious in the beginning as we were getting to know each other and learning to communicate with Creole, French, English and kitchen body language, but eventually everyone’s sense of humor emerged. We ran into some challenges, the vegetables didn’t cook as fast as I expected so the eggplant was tough—I should have steamed before stuffing–and the soup was too coarse because the squash wasn’t fully cooked–it needed to be strained–but we made adjustments. They were invested in getting things right and having them taste good. I was relieved and so happy when the cooks tried the food and gave it the thumbs up.
We made Stuffed Eggplant with Cracked Wheat and Tomato Sauce; Beet Salad with Oranges, Basil and Peanuts; and Squash and Carrot Soup.
My expectation is not that the culinary team will replicate these recipes, it is that the experience inspires them to come up with their own new ideas, and that they start to think about getting flavor in new healthier ways. I use lots of citrus, spices, herbs and nuts, which reduces the need for salt and Maggi.
The following day I made beautiful loaves of Cracked Wheat Bread with Madame Pierre and Georges in Boulanjri Beni. We used ble—cracked wheat– that is readily available, soaked it in water and then incorporated it into a simple bread recipe. Madame Pierre and George carefully weighed the ingredients with me, kneaded the dough by hand, which they though was pretty funny, and then shaped it into loaves. It was clear they were pros with bread dough and took charge of the proofing and baking of the bread. I know they were very proud of their bread and thought it was delicious.