Whenever I make chiquetaille (cod fish salad) I think of Edmond Pierre and his African Queen style boat. Edmond’s wealth and family went back as far as the Haitian independence from the French in 1804. Edmond’s family was and is wealthy, having hung on to that wealth through innate frugality.
Some Saturdays, he would invite a small group of us to visit two islands off the coast, Ile a Vache (Island of Cows) and Islet Tout Nu (Nude Island); the people weren’t nude but there was very little growth on the island. The boat captain and cook would load coolers full of ice, drinks and food on the boat, then pour each of us a rum punch before we departed. Once the captain succeeded in getting the very old boat started, the cook would pass around chiquetaille, smoked herring hors d’oeuvres and spicy griot.
Our first stop was always Ile a Vache where we off loaded supplies for some of Edmond’s retainers. We then continued on to Islet Tout Nu. Without fail, about 15 minutes after we’d leave Ile a Vache, the boat would stop. No problem. The captain would take out his tools, mainly a hammer and proceed with repairs as we continued our ocean cocktail party. Although he bought a cargo ship to export his coffee, Edmond steadfastly refused to replace his boat or his old cars (5) which he kept until his death.
At Ile Tout Nu, once the inhabitants sighted the boat, the drummers and dancers would begin our welcome. Here we would leave the boat and were served a lunch of roasted goat, plantains, rice, beans and, of course, more rum punch.
We will never forget Edmond, may he rest in peace, who adopted two young Americans in their early 20s and made a home for them in Haiti.
Our son, who worked 2 years in Haiti for Edmond’s nephew, Pierre Leger, loves Haitian food and especially chiquetaille. I made this for his Christmas homecoming. You can find the recipe here: http://atomic-temporary-17826715.wpcomstaging.com/2011/03/18/haitian-chiquetaille-cod-fish-salad/