By Allison Archambault and Madie Sturgess
As we welcome the holiday season, food will be central to many celebrations. Although the occasions may differ culturally, food feeds family holidays everywhere. In Haiti, aromas of spiced meats and vegetables, fried plantain, rice and sauce rise into the air and dance around neighborhoods, calling friends and families to their homes to eat and drink and revel in each other’s company. The flavors and recipes of Haitian cuisine have evolved over years of charcoal-fueled cooking. Come New Year’s Day, nearly every home will slowly stew the famed ‘soup joumou’ over hot coals. According to local lore, the rich pumpkin soup was formerly reserved for plantation owners. Fittingly, the now widespread enjoyment of soup joumou on January 1st has become a symbol of Haiti’s independence.
Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza and various New Year celebrations are right around the corner. What role will food play in your festivities? Where will you source your food and how will you cook it?
There is no doubt Haiti’s cooking is a conduit to its culture. Haiti's cuisine is nourishing and flavorful, and it brings family together. However the reliance on charcoal for cooking, a consequence of energy poverty, also risks household health, releases black carbon, contributes to deforestation, and exacerbates Haiti’s vulnerability to natural disasters.
Working with members of the Les Anglais and Tiburon communities, EarthSpark is exploring the electrification of cooking in these microgrid contexts. It is a seemingly small solution to a big problem, but there is potential to eliminate the health and climate damage of day-to-day charcoal cooking by enabling grid-connected households to use clean microgrid electricity with electric cooking appliances. Of course, we are all anxious to see how the soup joumou and other favorite recipes will taste!
As with other EarthSpark efforts, the electrification of cooking in the microgrid context is not just a potentially new approach to energy poverty in Haiti but is also relevant to the way people think about energy access and infrastructure design around the world.
To everyone preparing a celebratory meal this holiday season, happy cooking and bon appétit!