You are Invited to a Haitian Dinner

If you have been invited to a Haitian dinner expect a heartyfare.  Haitian hospitality is unlike any other in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Your host will go all out to make you feel like a king or a queen.  The best linen and china will come out of the cupboard no matter the social class of your host.  For a Haitian, recieving a guest it is the greatest of honnor that can be bestowed to his family and a calamity if judged as a bad host. Having a full table symbolizes abundance.  Therefore, all efforts will be made to make you as comfortable as possible and well fed. 

Your host expects you to come with an empty stomach, your plate will be filled to the maximum, you will be offered seconds  but don't serve yourself a third time otherwise you will be seen as a glutton.  Nevertheless, your host expect you to leave with a doggie bag, you are free to politely declined but expect your hosts to insist.

Haiti being a land of sunshine and heat there is an abundance of fruit juices as well as a dazzling array of fruits and thirst-quinching sodas; vegetables are a vibrant part of the Haitian gastronomy. It is the land of juicy succulent fruit, tender green vegetables, all grown throughout the years due to the ecosytem that permits new items every three months. The national dish is Griot which is fried Pork and Riz National, Rice & Beans.  Rice is present at every meal.  Informal dinner will vary from rice to corn (polenta) millet or wheat.  They are indispensable staples. The islanders enjoys simply prepared food, making the most of lush vegetables and copious meat and seafood.  Traditional one-pot meals and hearty soups provide substance for agricultural workers and seafarers and are found mostly in the rural area. 

The appreciation of good food and cooking is more than just a pleasant pastime.  Haitian live to eat and therefore at one's first step at the door they are offered food.   Favorite local dishes are fried plantain(tostones) with fried Pork and pickled cabbage. 

The meal normally starts with a serving of Acras or Marinades(Beignets) which are served with sauce ti-malice which is a hot sauce or pickled cabbage.  Next, the Viv(roots) served with meat or game and salads which have been simmered until meltingly tender or a vegetable stew and a gratin. Finally it is time for the rice which is often served mixed with beans or with a bean puree.  Haiti is the land for stewed or barbecued meat they are popular method of cookings. Barbecue is called 'boukanen" in Haitian Creole which comes from the word Buccaneers who used to barbecue their meat.  This method is ideal for both meat and seafood.  Rice and Bean puree are rarely served at a formal dinner.  However, expect either Riz National or Riz Djon Djon( Rice Blacken by mushroom) with peas and shrimp a Catalonian influence.

The food is as colorful as the people issuing from the variety of produce tjey have.  Wine do not feature much in the cooking but is becoming more in more popular in Haitian cotemporary table. 

A meal is simply not considered complete if it a fruit juice or a fruit soda is not served.  A liquor might be offered either before dinner or after dinner.

Dress Code and Etiquette

Haitians ranging from the elite to the lowest social class is very formal when it comes to dinner invitation.  It would be a great mistake if one arrives wearing jeans, t-shirt and certainly no sneakers. Depending on the host if they are from a modest means it is best to be semi-casual to not be over dressed.  From a middle class family a vest will be proper and from the highest social class your host will dictate from the invitation the type of outfit that would be required when in doubt it is best to ask the host about the type of attire that one is expected to wear.

The middle class and the elites expects its guests to know the rules of the tables and to act accordingly.  Table etiquettes are highly expected and the host will be judge by his table manners if deemed at fault will never be invited back at their table.

Haitians follows the same table etiquettes as the French.  No burping, no slurping, the elbow does not go on the table.  Do complement the lady of the house even if she was not the one who cooked the meal it will get you very far.

Do not ever underestimate your hosts in their vigilance on table etiquette.  Even if your host lives in a hut and is seating on two rocks sharing food with you, he expects you to behave properly any misconduct is seen as an insult, therefore, all efforts have be made to not inadvertently offend your host as he or she will make the best to care for you while you are at his or her home.

Should you bring  a bottle or something to the host?

The host does not expect you to bring anything once you have been invited it is not part of the custom. However, some middle class and upper class family do indeed offer to bring something.  I would mostly ask the host if they are in need of anything before taking the liberty to purchase anything.  Normally, everything is provided to the guess and he or she is not expected to bring something.
Bon Appetit!