Sunday, January 1, 2012

independence day pumpkin soup for January 1

Today: soup joumou - soupe au giraumon – independence day soup - a tradition not to be missed!

January 1 is a day of multiple feasts: New Year’s Day, Feast of the Holy Name, and Haitian Independence Day. Soupe joumou (or soupe au giromond) is a pumpkin soup served regularly, but it has a special importance for January 1.

Here is a short explanation found in a Facebook discussion (I have included more comments at the bottom of this post for those interested):

La soupe au giraumont a une grande signification pour tous les Haïtiens, elle represente pour nous le fait de vivre librement, d'avoir un drapeau, d'avoir une patrie et d'etre une nation. Autre difference qu'il y a avec la soupe est que, quel que soit la quantité consommée, on ne peut pas avoir d'indigestion et elle est tres conservable. (

A rough translation: Pumpkin soup is very significant for all Haitians. It represents for us the fact of living freely, of having a flag, of having a country and of being a nation. Another difference is that with the soup, no matter how much you eat, you can’t have indigestion, and it keeps well.

How does it relate to independence, you might ask?

An explanation from the same discussion:

Marie-Claire Heureuse Bonheur Félicité Dessalines en avait demandé la distribution aux nouveaux libres sans exception, étant donné que ce mets leur avait été refusé quand ils étaient esclaves

That is, Mme Dessalines (wife of the main general during the revolution, if I remember my history – feel free to correct me if you know otherwise!) asked for this soup to be distributed to every one of the newly freed slaves because this particular dish had been refused them when they were slaves.

So this soup isn’t just a nice tradition, like my family’s practice of making homemade sweet rolls for Christmas breakfast. It’s a national dish of historical significance. As well as being a reminder of the freedoms won and now to be cherished, I would imagine it might also be a hopeful reminder of Haitians’ ability to make a change in the life of their nation.

making soup joumou

We had our soup for breakfast, as is traditional (surprisingly good for breakfast, especially on limited sleep – lots of nutrients!). Also traditional: sharing it. You invite people over to have a bit of soup and cremas (a drink - more on that later), and you send soup to your friends and neighbors, though in Port-au-Prince it is less common than outside the capital. I hear sometimes you have quite a number of containers of different versions of soupe joumou on the table during the course of the day. Yes, you want to taste all of them! And then you always have some ready for your guests.

In the sermon this morning at the Cathédrale Sainte Trinité, I heard that it is also an old tradition to greet your neighbors with a handshake that leaves all the little disputes of the past year behind. Neighbors need each other and need to be ready to work together.

I also learned that in times past, it was traditional for children to ask their father’s or grandfather’s blessing on this day. It sounds as though it were half their blessing, but really a prayer for God’s blessing, rather in the way Isaac blessed Jacob – except with a blessing for everyone, not just the eldest.

One more think:  I have heard from various sisters over time that it is also traditional to clean and repaint (spring cleaning on steroids) before the new year, and I have certainly seen evidence of this.  For example, we repainted the railing on the staircase.

If you would like to make this yourself, I have the ingredients here. I asked about the recipe, and they just looked at me. Recipe? You just make it. And everyone does it a little differently. I am including the ingredients of the soup we had, but I understand some add rice and others add different spices. We were sent a very good, rather spicy version for Christmas Eve, and I would love to know whether they added tabasco or something else to the mix.

Soup Joumou as prepared and eaten here

1 Pumpkin (you could try this with squash, too, I’d bet)
Malanga (another root vegetable; I don't believe it's essential)
If desired, beef or goat (chicken works, too, but is not traditional for the new year)

Cut pumpkin into pieces. Put it in a pot with water and cook till soft. When it is soft, put it through a food mill. (Since I had never seen a food mill before, maybe you haven’t either. Think mechanical food processor. So you could try yours or some other way of mashing it.) It will not be in pieces when you finish, but will rather provide the base for your soup.

preparing the pumpkin
While it’s cooking, chop your vegetables and meat into more or less bite-sized chunks, as you would for a stew.

Put it all together in a pot (with water, I assume! I didn’t see that part) and simmer extensively.

soup joumou simmering
You’ll want to add your pasta, I think, not all that long before serving so it doesn’t get too mushy. However, this is a soup that some start drinking/eating as early as 2AM if it’s ready, and it can stand simmering for long periods of time. It can also be reheated.

Enjoy and share!

From the Facebook discussion on which is the dish most representative of Haiti (link above):

--a mon avis je pense que la soupe de giraumont devrait etre notre plat nationle parce que cette soupe a une signification particuliere a nous et aussi elle est originale a l'haitien.

je n'ai jamais rencontre quelqu'un d'une autre culture qui en mange pour commemorer un evenement special de leur histoire. si j'ai bien compris, nous les haitiens, on en mange parce qu'on nous l'avait interdit durant l'esclavage alors c'etait l'une des demonstrations significatives pour prouver aux colons qu'on est libere de tous les matyrs inflictes et ceci physiquement, emotionellement et "gastronomiquement" :)

--Je penses que la soupe giraumon est le plat nationale, malgre, depuis notre enfance on nous dit que que c'est le riz et le pois mais si nous entrons dans les details de notre passer la soupe giraumon est mieux placer et a des valeurs nutritifs pour notre corps. si ou jwen youn moune ki konnin prepare soup saa pitit se koupe dwet

--Mon pere a confirme que le plat national haitien le plus representatif c'est la Soupe de Giraumont! He was born in Haiti so therefore he knows more about it than i do! :) Il ajoute aussi ces mots en disant que la Soupe de Giraumont represente une tradition national celebrant le jour de la fete de l'independence! ( Im learning from the old boy)!

--je me prépare à voter plusieurs fois pour "Soup Joumou" comme plat national à cause de la signification historique (Marie-Claire Heureuse Bonheur Félicité Dessalines en avait demandé la distribution aux nouveaux libres sans exception, étant donné que ce mets leur avait été refusé quand ils étaient esclaves

--certes la soupe au giromon est plus représentative car en lien direct avec le 1ier janvier!!!!

Other recipes may be found here:
and here:


  1. Don't forget the dumplings!! Or the greens!

  2. I am off to the store to purchase some items and then I will attempt to re-create this soup for our International New Years party this evening. The other burner will be making Chinese dumplings. Wish me luck!

  3. So I did my best to follow your recipe and I think it went well. My Hatian student called his mother and she helped me decide if I needed scallions and if there were other spices involved (she said no).
    I ended up with butternut squash, red potatoes (not the brown), only the macaroni with no vermicelli, and I am not sure how much of everything I used. At the last minute Dorvil said it seemed to be missing something and we decided it was the meat flavor that he was missing. The best I could do was to add a bit of cream of chicken soup and then he said it was closer to the correct taste.
    It tastes sweeter than I expected, and I really liked it. Potatoes take a while to soften, don't they? Who knew? Anyhow, good times - thanks for the recipe!