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“I work a full-time job and have a family to take care of; I just don’t have the time.”
“Working 40 hours a week plus college work- it’s a miracle I eat at all!”
“Why cook when I can heat this up in 5 minutes?!”
We’ve all heard or have said these ourselves. Cooking at home — for many of us what was once a routine part of our childhood households, has now become an anomaly in our own. Obligations to work and family, while striving to maintain a social life has taken a toll on the tradition of the home-cooked meal. This reality only becomes more apparent for Haitians who grew up in a home where traditional dishes and meals played a communal component, bringing family & friends together in the kitchen and around the table. In a country where faster is now better, cooking homemade meals is becoming lost in an era of frozen pizzas and microwavable dinners. But there are the precious few who still advocate for healthy eating and fresh meals. On May 31st, Haiti Cultural Exchange’s An n’ Pale | Cafe Conversation featured Haitian gastronomy artist Chef Elle Philippe who showed us not only the benefits of cooking our own meals but how to cook them the right way.
Recalling her former cooking teacher’s inability to comprehend her refusal to work for a restaurant, she chuckled, “I don’t want to open a can..I want to practice gastronomy.” Ms. Philippe seems to have innate and admirable decisiveness and self-determination when it comes to how she practices her craft. Cooking in Elle’s kitchen had to be more holistic than the hustle of a restaurant’s back of house. Elle emphasized the need to slow down in our own kitchens, encouraging us to opt out of quick meals from packaged goods. “You can eat SPAM for years but eventually it is going to show…” she joked while recounting her experience meeting with representatives of the the potted meat product to devise a recipe — a proposition she promptly refused.
Chef Elle’s cooking demonstration of her Mango Salsa Vinaigrette attested to her “fresh food is better” mantra as she periodically stopped to describe the health benefits of each ingredient and where to purchase them. She also discussed defeating the narrow perceptions of what Haitian food is. Holding up a breadfruit, various types of yams, parsley, coconut and the iconic mango Francique, Elle called these the core flavors from which Haitian cuisine derives. She stressed the importance of widening this view — not only because of today’s inaccurate portrayal of Haitian cuisine, but because of the health implications for those growing up in the diaspora when the alternative to their cultural cuisine is often from the freezer section.
As samplings of the edible tablescape were passed around, audiences expressed surprise at the flavors of the fresh guava versus cubes of guava paste and eager eyes followed the tray of manba ak kasav (cassava and peanut butter) around the room. During the sampling, Elle shared anecdotes and lesser known Haitian food traditions including one that stumped the crowd: Wayal (The Royal), cassava topped with peanut butter, watercress, and shiktay morue (salt cod tapenade) or pickled herring.
It seemed that as their taste buds got going, the audience couldn’t stop asking questions about Haiti and its food. Ranging from direct questions about where to buy the freshest produce to bigger questions about what constitutes Haitian food? From her displayed defiance towards manufactured products and her complex understanding of Haitian cuisine and gastronomy to Elle’s tasteful wit– not to forget the complimentary hors d’oeuvres prepared by the Chef herself — the audience was given a thorough taste of how Chef Elle Philippe acquired her unique and unforgettable flavor.
Chef Elle Philippe offers recurring cooking classes and private dining parties as well as catering for events. Contact her via phone at (646) 835-9903 and connect with Chez Elle on Facebook.
View photos of Elle’s tasty An n’ Pale | Café Conversation here.
Spice up your daily meals and try out Chef Elle’s recipe to her Mango Salsa Vinaigrette!
Chez Elle Mango Salsa Vinaigrette
Directions In a large bowl, mix together mustard, shallots, honey, peppadew, jalapeno, garlic. Whisk together and combine with the vinegar. Slowly add the olive oil and whisk vigorously at the same time, season to taste with salt and fresh black pepper. Lastly, add the diced mango.
Please note: This vinaigrette can stay in your refrigerator for a week without the diced mango. For freshness and flavor, add the mango 1 hour before serving the vinaigrette.
For any vinaigrette always best to return to room temperature before serving.
–Jessica Senat & Kassandra Khalil, HCX Staff
An n’ Pale | Café Conversations are sponsored by EmblemHealth. We thank them for their support of our mission!
An n’ Pale | Café Conversation with Elle Philippe took place on May 31, 2013 at FiveMyles Gallery, Brooklyn.
This entry was posted on Friday, June 7th, 2013 at 12:55 pm and is filed under An n' Pale, Archive, Events, Public Forums. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.