In this installment of the blog, we’ll send a few questions Chef Jouvens Jean’s way to get his perspective of some fairly macro issues, as well as to get some suggestions for some surprisingly easy fixes to common problems. As he points out, contrary to expectations, healthier eating can sometimes also mean time and money saved…
OW: In the Haitian context, what are the particular obstacles standing between all of us and the goal of helping young people to inspire those around them? How can we overcome those obstacles?
Chef Jouvens: The main problem for the young people of Haiti are the social cleavages they face in Haitian society. It’s also the main obstacle standing between all of us and the goal of helping the youth to inspire those around them. I think the best way to overcome this is through communication – by being a mentor to the kids; showing them the value of bettering themselves, which will pay off later on; and by being an inspiration. Also, through education: Teach them how to balance hard work, intelligence and belief in themselves. Show them there’s another way than the traditional one.
OW: You point out that in addition to many children being underfed – one of the problems that you are working to address – that there is also often a lack of nutritional awareness in Haiti. What are some common misconceptions about food there? How can we address those misconceptions? What kinds of practical dietary changes can lower-income Haitians, in particular, make to improve their health and well-being?
Chef Jouvens: The biggest misconception about nutritional awareness in Haiti is the idea that everything needs to be cooked to “well done” in order to be edible. Also, they still believe in the old ways of cleaning meat with lemon or sour orange juice. And of course, there is the Maggi [a high-sodium flavoring additive that often contains monosodium glutamate (MSG)] used automatically in any meal. The best way to address those misconception is again communication and education. Show them for example, through education and practice, that raw vegetables have more nutritional value than cooked, reducing the need for cooking oil. Replace Maggi with natural Haitian spices that were used hundreds of years before the stuff even existed – spices they have access to and that they grow themselves. Also decrease the length of the cooking process; it doesn’t have to, and shouldn’t take so much time to get food ready and [so will mean] less work and gas also. These small practical dietary changes can improve lower-income Haitians’ health and well-being.