Learn to Cook Conch, Beignets And Other Haitian Dishes

Oct 25, 2013

In 2006, Liliane Nerette-Louis, teacher of Haitian cooking and folkore, received a Florida Folk Heritage Award.
Credit Florida Folklife Program

It's a common story: Kid grows up in an immigrant household eating delicious food. Kid becomes adult. Adult still enjoys that delicious food whenever she returns home.

Then, for some reason or another (maybe because a grandmother or mom is always eager to cook), that adult never learns to prepare the food of her heritage.

For those eager to reclaim the recipes of the Haitian kitchen or for those who are curious about Haitian food, Liliane Nerette-Louis is opening her own kitchen to a small group this Saturday, Oct. 26 at 4:00 p.m. ($30).

Liliane Nerette-Louis makes beignets in her Miami kitchen in this photo from 1990.
Credit Florida State Archives

In the first class, she'll teach students how to cook conch and beignets (benyen in Creole), the sweet fried fritters  now commonly associated with Café Du Monde in New Orleans. While learning to cook, students will also learn about Haitian folklore and culture.

Louis has taught Haitian folklore and cuisine for many years, and she has also penned several books  for adults and children. Most recently, Louis contributed to the anthology So Spoke the Earth: The Haiti I Knew, The Haiti I Know, The Haiti I Want to Know.

"Most Haitian foods have a story behind them," says Louis. "Our pumpkin soup is called freedom soup because its origin is rooted in our independence. Our conch also has stories reflecting why Haitian men love to eat conch."

The class is open to all: "I like for people of any nationality to have a chance to learn about the Haitian way of life if they have the desire."

Joanne Hyppolite, writer and chief curator at History Miami, turned to Louis many years ago. "She's the one who taught me to make the Haitian food I grew up eating. When I first met her, she wasn't using many of the modern appliances -- but by doing more of what I considered old-fashioned, she showed me the authentic ways. "

"It's cooking with stories," Hyppolite says,"The lesson is always related to something bigger than the food you're making."

Call 305-803-7430 to register for the class on Saturday, Oct. 26th and to find out about future classes. 

This is a guest post from WLRN contributor Trina Sargalski's food and drink blog, Miami Dish. She is also the Miami editor for Tasting Table. You can  follow her at @MiamiDish on Twitter.