Making the Most of What You’ve Got

6 Oct

A few weeks ago I was in Jeremie, Haiti on a group volunteer trip. The trip was both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and poverty is everywhere. Just knowing what the people of Haiti have had to endure for the last ~2 years since the earthquake, much less the last few hundred years breaks my heart. However, everywhere we went, children were  always eager to play, offer a bright smile or hold hands with the “blancs” (foreigners) who for a brief time invaded their community with open hearts and open arms. I could go on and on about my time in Haiti and will likely save a more thorough deep-dive for another post.

Our living conditions were rustic to say the least. Because of the heat and humidity, and the lack of air conditioning we slept in tents. Fourteen of us shared one bathroom and we had electricity sporadically. Despite all of this we ate incredibly well: fresh fruit and coffee in the mornings. Huge mid-day meals of rice and beans, pasta, fried meat, stew, salad and more fruit. I expected to lose weight in Haiti, not gain it! (Actually, I did lose a few pounds) Many things made an indelible impression on me during this adventure, including the magic our cooks were able to create in their kitchen:

That’s right: no stove, no fridge, no overflowing pantry, no fancy appliances like food processors, blenders, etc. The cooks did everything by hand, cooked using charcoal “stoves” and went to the market everyday to buy food. It looks grungy, but the cooks scrubbed everything down every day. Seeing the environment in which our Haitian cooks created fantastic meals made me admire their skills and enjoy their home cooking even more.

I often daydream about my ultimate kitchen and salivate over photos in magazines and on the Web. My standing mixer and food processor are among my favorite go-to kitchen tools. However, after being in Haiti I have a much greater admiration for cooks who can create fantastic meals without the help of fancy tools or exotic ingredients, and who rely on their ingenuity and talent to make the most of what they’ve got.

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