The minimum wage in Cyprus was, last year, set at €960 per month. Various statistical sites suggest the average salary on the island is around €2,000 per month. But while both figures are staggeringly low (especially given the island’s rising rents and cost of living), we’re still nowhere near Haiti. In this Caribbean nation, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, the average monthly income is just over €100; if you take home more than €2,000 in an entire year, you’re doing well!
But, Haitians are known for their resilience, resourcefulness, and strong sense of community. Social gatherings allow the people to connect and support one another: church events, neighbourhood celebrations, and family gatherings are common, and usually include both traditional music and excellent food…
A blend of African, French, and indigenous Taino influences, Haitian cuisine is all about doing a lot with a little. Among the most popular dishes is legume, a vegetable stew made with whatever’s to hand. The perfect example of Haitian ingenuity, legume changes from household to household and season to season, incorporating anything from green beans to pumpkin, eggplant, okra, spinach, onions, sweet potatoes or carrots. And even, if you’re lucky, something a little more substantial – normally tough-and-stringy offcuts of goat or chicken meat.
Meat pops up again in tassot, a traditional Haitian dish made of fried goat or beef soaked in orange juice before cooking, and then served with rice, beans and fried plantains. And the nation’s most iconic dish, griot, also appeals to the carnivore: pork shoulder marinated in a mixture of sour orange juice, garlic and spices; fried until crispy; and always served with the local pikliz, a spicy coleslaw made with vinegar, peppers and cabbage.
If there’s a boat in the family, seafood may be on the menu. Among the more popular marine cuisine, we get poisson gros sel, a much-loved local dish that consists of freshly-caught red snapper prepared in a Creole court-bouillon-style sauce packed with spicy ingredients.
Lobster, crab, shrimp and conch pop up in and stews, made all the tastier for the addition of coconut milk, garlic, scallions, parsley, and thyme. And as a snack, there’s delicious pâté: a delicate puff pastry that’s filled with herring, and seasoned with garlic, lime and chili. Proving that, even without the money for expensive ingredients, you can still do a lot with a little!