Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Day in the Life Series?

I'm wondering if it would be too big of a bore if I spent a few days writing about what it looks like to care for a home in Haiti.

Normally I would never think that housework would be something worth chronicling.  I'm not sure if I would want to read a great deal about cleaning toilets or doing laundry.

Once you throw Haiti into the mix, I'm hoping things definitely get a little more exciting even if I will be talking about buying groceries and mopping the floors.

Bear with me as I spend a few days jotting down what it looks like to care for a Haiti home and the people inside it.

First topic...Food

How could food not be the first topic?  We are a family who loves food.  We love to eat.  We love having people over to eat with us.

There are lots of issues that revolve around something as simple as eating and drinking.

Sometimes those issues can be overwhelming because we live in such a fallen, broken world with broken systems and broken ways of doing just about everything.

However, those same issues can be kind of exciting when we think that God created us in His image.  We are image bearers of the creator God.  As people who reflect His image we are given an invitation to redeem and restore things that are broken and ugly on this earth.  In big ways or small ways I truly believe this can be done as we eat and as we drink.

For that reason I don't want anyone to feel overwhelmed when they read this post.  Maybe you share some of the same convictions about food.  Maybe you don't. If you don't, please feel free to opt out.  It's not my personal crusade to make people think about food the same way we think about food.  I'm pretty passionate about this stuff personally, but hopefully I'm just as passionate about admitting that I fail in a million other ways, so I'm no picture of what pure awesomeness looks like.  I even fail pretty regularly when it comes to this exact topic of food and eating.

Maybe you do share some of the same convictions but don't know how to implement them.  Maybe you're way further along in this food journey than we are.  No matter where we find ourselves today, I hope that we are not overwhelmed (or worse, condemned) when we talk about these things.  Instead I pray that excitement grows in our hearts as we desire to live out God's redemptive nature and desire to worship God in the way we eat and in the way we buy the foods we eat (and in all the other parts of life as well.)

Here's what we're aiming for around the Hendrick house...

We want to eat food that is healthy, nutritious, and as close to the way God made it as possible.

We want to be good stewards of the bodies that God has given to us.

We want to buy foods from companies who care about the environment and are good stewards of the earth God created.

We desire to purchase our food in a way that honors God by caring for the people who are producing our food.  God cares about the laborer.  He cares about the people growing our food.  He loves them, and we want to love them as well.

The food industry is notorious for oppressing the poor.  There are lots of companies that recruit illegal aliens, give them jobs in the US and then deport them after many years.  Lots of those families then have birthed children in the US and one day wake up to find that dad is getting sent back across the border.

Many US food companies employ illegal aliens and then never give them raises or benefits.  They work them ungodly hours because they know that the poor...the alien...have no voice.

Oppression right in the US.

We want to financially support hard work, social responsibility, and stewardship of the earth (as best as we can).  We want to avoid companies who treat their employees terribly, who exploit the poor, who destroy the earth, and who think man-made chemicals are just as good or even better than the foods that God created to grow on Earth.

At one point in our life, eating was simply eating.  Eating had nothing to do with God and was not a spiritual activity for us.  We've slowly been learning that everything is spiritual.  God has given us so many opportunities to live a full, rich, and abundant life as we learn to love the things that God loves and stand firmly against the things that God despises.  He has given us ample opportunities to join in the work that He is always doing...restoring all things.  We are convinced that eating in a way that honors God is an exciting way to live out God's redemptive nature.

As we eat we are aware that we have been given a chance to worship God by declaring the things He has made good and right while humbly admitting that man's ways are lower and never as good as God's design.

All that to say, we desire to be a family that worships God as we eat.   Sometimes we may do that.  Sometimes we have no way of knowing for sure if what we just served for dinner honored the Lord because let's face it...sometimes it can be hard to figure out where those eggs came from that are sitting in my grocery cart.

In the US, it had taken a long time and a lot of work, but we were getting close to being able to identify where every food product we bought originated.

Then we moved to Haiti and I was so afraid we'd have to start over here.

I have been pleasantly surprised to find that we seem to be a lot closer to our food sources here in Haiti than we were in the US.

I still have some research I want to do...some asking around...possibly even visiting some of the places on the island that make our food, but overall we've been able to eat a pretty organic, wholefoods diet here in Haiti.

Every few days we walk to the grocery store.  There is one grocery store nearby called Eagle.  We only buy what we can carry home.

Eagle sells most of what I would buy at a grocery store in the US.  However, in the US you may have one full wall devoted to yogurt.  The Eagle may have a selection the size of a small cabinet.  You get two brands of yogurt and about three varieties or flavors.  The only things we buy from Eagle are things we can't buy on the street at the market.

We don't buy much from Eagle because it's more expensive there, and we'd rather support poor Haitians on the street who are selling the same items than give a ton of money to the rich grocery store owners.

Almost every day we go to the market and buy things like beans, avocados, mangoes, pineapple, onions, garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, bell pepper, green onions, zuchinni, eggplant, oranges, limes, bananas, and plantains.

Aaron has his favorite lady vendors, and they adore him.  Really.  They light up when they see him coming.  They are also very protective of Aaron.  If he has to buy something they don't sell from someone near them, I've literally witnessed Aaron's ladies come over to the vendor where Aaron is buying bananas and totally chew out that vendor for charging Aaron too much.  It's pretty precious.

Once a week Soso (the treasure of a lady who helps me with the house) goes to the big market down the road and buys some things for us.  She gets the non-white prices.  We are in love with Soso!

We eat a lot of fruits and vegetables from the market because they are fresh and probably all organic.  Fertilizer costs money and well, Haiti is fresh out of that.  The produce rots in a few days.  It's ripe and ready to eat it the moment you buy it.  The food is crazy flavorful.  I've honestly never tasted anything like this.  Throw some tomatoes, potatoes, celery, celery leaves, onion, zucchini, and garlic in a pot and you've got yourself restaurant style soup.

We don't have a lot of access to meat.  We eat ground beef.  It's very lean.  I have no idea if it's grassfed, but it cooks like it's grassfed.  To my knowledge there are no commercial feed lots in Haiti (like what we have in the US).  I want to try and find out more about meat production in this country.  For now it seems like the beef is healthier here, but I want to learn more about the meat industry.  It does smell a little like shrimp some days, which can never be good, right?

We also don't have much access to dairy.  Milk is through the roof expensive.  Yogurt is expensive too.  Cheese is ridiculous.  So we eat limited dairy.  Most of the dairy is ultra pasteurized because it's imported.  You buy it off a shelf instead of out of the refrigerated area.  It's a dead food, so it's probably good we don't use it much.  Besides, it tastes like we're drinking baby formula.  vomit. in. the. mouth.  We do have French butter.  That makes up for the barfy milk.

There are no tortillas in this country.  All the Texans just gasped.  I heard it.  I know.  Total crap.  These Hatians don't know what they are missing.  Everything they make would be totally yum in a tortilla.

We buy our bread from a bakery we walk to right down the road.  This makes bread cheap and oh my goodness...really delicious.

When we were moving to Haiti we budgeted a lot of money for food.  Most everything at the grocery store is imported.  If we were going to eat American, imported, processed foods I can't even imagine how much money we'd spend for a family our size.  There are five males in our house and they all eat like fat lards, so seriously...I don't know how we'd afford to eat American made food-like items.

A box of cereal is in the 6-7 dollar range.

Although I feel totally inept in almost every other way living in Haiti, I can not stress how thankful I am that God started changing our diet years ago.  Before we got here I had been learning how to cook from scratch.  I was learning the financial benefits of eating out of a whole foods pantry.  I was learning to make our favorite processed meals out of real food.  My children are used to eating whole foods.  They hardly bat an eye when it comes to eating a dish filled with tons of vegetables.

If you've read this blog for long you know that this was not always the case.  A lot of patience, firmness, and retraining had to happen in our home about food, about stewardship, about loving God's design over man's design, about thankfulness, about caring for the poor and how those things are all linked to the food we eat.  It's been a slow, rough road.  We've had to repent a lot as parents for teaching our kids wrong ideas about food.  During long, painful stand offs about food with our boys, we've had to say things like..."You are going to eat this.  I know it's hard eating new foods.  As your parents we should have been teaching you the right things about food.  Instead, we taught you wrong things about food.  We're going to have to relearn together what it looks like to honor God in the way we eat."

Lots of times Aaron and I wanted to give up and hand the kids some fish sticks.  Lots of times I have wanted to hit my kids with fish sticks.  One of our children still acts a fool about food from time to time, but we are grateful that he recognizes his issues as spiritual at their root.  He truly does desire to care for his body.  He wants his parents to care for the poor as we shop for food.  It's just been a struggle.  Most days we patiently walk with him through his struggle.  Some days we want to strangle him because it gets really old.

Food has been a pleasant surprise in this country.

I have had to make minor changes to some of our favorite recipes.  A lot of our meat dishes are now meatless.  Overall, we have eaten well here and have spent less on food than we thought we'd have to spend.

Yesterday I wrote a cry baby post.  Today I wanted to make sure to point out that there are things I love about Haiti.  Truly love.  Food has been one of those things.

Aaron loves this way of living where you go to the grocery store every day or every other day.   He loves visiting his ladies in the market.  Our food is crazy fresh.  We spend a long time cooking dinner every day, but savor every bite.  Maybe the cool factor will wear off and we'll be wanting our one-stop stores back.  For now, we're loving this way of eating.

Most importantly it brings great joy...and I mean great joy to buy our food from such hard working women in the market.  Most of them have their children right under their feet or on their hip.  They work from sun up till sun down.  I pray that the money we spend on their bounty is changing their homes.  I pray they can afford to send their kids to school this year.

As soon as I can get someone to translate for me, I have a lot of questions for these ladies at the market.  Where did you get these vegetables?  Do you keep all of the profit? 

I'm hoping to find good answers to those questions.

It has been a good thing to be so close to our food source.
Handing my money to the cashier at my favorite grocery store in the US felt mundane.  I felt numb.  I felt nothing.

Handing my money to the ladies right outside our gate feels like worship.  When I leave them I am filled with joy.  Those ladies have beautiful smiles on their faces. 

I love that part of our life in Haiti.  Absolutely love it.

I do hate the bugs in my flour and the bugs in my rice and the bugs in my beans.  But I mostly like all the other food related parts of Haiti.


Mommy, M.D. said...

So, so beautiful! I couldn't be happier for you. Amazing.

Aydan said...

I wanted to pipe up and say that you shouldn't be ashamed of talking about housework, or reluctant to talk about it! A lot of domestic work, specifically that which is seen as the domain of women, goes unnoticed, unrespected, etc. (It's not counted in nations' GDPs, while things like drug dealers are!) Work that is valuable to you is valuable work. :)

Also, your description of the food is really mouth-wateringly wonderful@

Paul Schafer said...

Since you are on the topic of food, will you consider starting a recipie series on Haitian food cuisine that you have learned to prepare and are willing to share with us New Lifers?

thoughtsbyryan said...

I knew that you guys would fall in love with this aspect of living in a "majority world country". This was probably one of my top 5 favorite parts of living in Malawi. I loved frequenting the market and developing those relationships with people... such a fun place! It was also in that time that I learned how to cook from scratch and learned what it meant to patiently wait for food and savor it. There are just so many lessons to be learned from food. Aside from the relationships with people I met in Malawi, I probably miss this aspect the most. I just cringe at the thought of throwing something in the microwave now...


The Lopases said...

this post made me ache for Barcelona....which I find myself doing alot lately...
When I lived there 2 summers ago, they had this AMAZING fresh food open air market, with MOUNDS of produce, and lots of freshly caught Mediterranean fish. The simplicity of my meals made my soul sing... I hated the grocery store, except for these wonderful cookies called Principe :)
I never tired of preparing my meals from scratch.
Love you and miss you. Maybe we will experience some of that cuisine soon :)

Anonymous said...

I've been following your blog for a couple of weeks now. I can't even remember how I found it, but I'm really enjoying it. I've always loved learning about missions and missionaries and your blog brings it to life for me. Thank you for sharing the highs and lows and just being real. You and your family will be in my prayers.
Also, when you mentioned no tortillas, I remembered a recipe I saw recently for homemade tortillas. I don't know if you would have access to all the ingredients, but if you wanted to check it out, here it is: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/05/homemade-flour-tortillas/.

God bless you and your family,
South Georgia

Brandon and April said...

incredible post. makes me want to cry as I think about missing our favorite vendors in China.
here is a link to homemade tortillas. easy peasy tex-mex recipe from a whole-foods type of gal:
it was my go-to recipe in china. it does call for milk, but we made it with the vomit-it-in-your-mouth boxed Nestle milk off a shelf and couldn't taste much difference. I'd think even using yogurt would be great and could even give it a African-y naan bread type of flavor.
hooray for another thing you adore about Haiti!

Hendrick Family said...

I'm so excited about these tortilla recipes. On my to do list! Yum.


mandi said...

That last picture...so beautiful.

I loved this post. This is how I wish life was everywhere. Crazy fresh food available to EVERYONE. For good prices. Going straight to the producers.

Oh! I have the best tortilla recipe. I'll email it to you. we make it often and quadruple the recipe. Because, well, we're Texans. It's a good one for kids to help out on too.

Also- keep the home keeper posts coming. With lots of pictures!

The Kramer Family said...

Okay....I totally know what I'm sending to you in the next suitcase that comes your way- a tortilla press! Yes ma'am.

Also, look up Fake Food Free. You will love some of the food ideas and recipes. Do it!

And it's beautiful to hear the lovely comments of those who have lived overseas. Just beautiful to hear that they loved buying from people and markets and being deeply connected with their food. I think that we miss the mark big time on this here in America.

Love you dear!

Anonymous said...


Remember when it was as easy as heating up a Totinos pizza for Anson. Wow how your life has changed. We are praying for ya!

Pauline, Tristin, Trey and Tai

Hi. I'm Alanna. said...

A day in the life series sounds great! So much we don't know here that you're learning first hand.

And so glad to see someone else already told you about making homemade tortillas b/c that was the first thing that popped into my head. If she has the ingredients, I bet she could introduce them to tortillas!

Barbara Kingsolver would be so proud of how y'all are eating there - sounds delicious. What a good connection you have to the people through food. That would be my biggest fear going anywhere, and I love these pictures of the people and food. Puts faces on the people to pray for everyday.

Praying for all of you...

thetysonfamily said...

I am SO SO happy you are doing this "day in the life" series... seriously, I have had so many missionary friends that I have begged to give me such information, and none have. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! I look forward to reading every bit of it. I think we may end up on the other side of the world some day, and I want no romantic ideals in my head, only the expectation that God will be there and His grace will be sufficient.

By the way, you know how to MAKE tortillas, right?? Maybe that can be a contribution you can make to your community. :)

<3, Lindsay in La Luz, NM

thetysonfamily said...

Oops, sorry I didn't read the other comments first!

Here is a tried-and-true recipe that you don't need milk for. :) My husband's family makes a crazy good homemade mexican feast every Christmas eve, with his aunt's recipe below being one of my favorite parts:

Flour Tortillas

4 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
1 ¼ tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup shortening or oil
1 ¼ cup warm water

1. Mix dry ingredients.
2. Add oil.
3. Add water.
4. Let stand 10 minutes covered.
5. Divide into 12 equal balls and cover with plastic.
6. Roll out and cook on griddle (no oil).
7. When each is done, stack inside dish towels to steam.
8. Finish the other 11 and let stand in towels 5 minutes until soft.

Makes 12 tortillas.

<3, Lindsay in La Luz, NM :)

Megan Fletcher said...

oh what beautiful people! what a blessing to have those markets and those relationships. wow. we really do miss the mark here, as Lynsey said. and, thanks for all those recipes commenters! hopefully you can make some soon Heather.

thanks for sharing every little part of this journey.

The Arguellos said...

I'm enjoying your blog Heather! Jader brought me fruits and veggies from the market yesterday too. :) I saw in a photo of the market a small light green vegetable that is kinda bottom heavy and wrinkled looking. Here it's called chayote.

Anyways, it's takes really good when cooked with carrots. I dice carrots and chayote in small cubes, no need to peel it, and cook it together. You can add onion, bell pepper and ground beef and serve with a side of rice. Cheap, natural, and good for you! :)

I don't remember if you can get that vegetable in the states.