I’d reached the middle of February 2018 when something came over me to make “Pain Mais.” Since returning to New York about 10 years ago, this would be only the second time in 10 years that I would be making Haitian cornbread – Pain Mais – the bread of my people.
Running around for weeks skipping breakfast was not doing me any good. One morning I realized that there were three over riped bananas on the dining room table. The previous week I had thrown out one banana gone bad and throwing out three this week would’ve been a crime. The only recipe I knew offhand by heart that would use three overriped bananas was Pain Mais. American style Banana Bread was another recipe but I had long lost my bread pan to make that. Pain Mais was the only option that would rescue three very sad looking bananas.
I was feeling frustrated and helpless that afternoon. I had completed yet another temp. assignment the week before and now I had no job to go to for the current week. I had spent weeks looking for and applying to writing assignments with nothing coming up. Truly I was living between a rock and a hard place.
Stirring cornmeal on a hot stove and then baking it was the therapy I needed. I had bought a pack of steno pads the week before but only managed to write about two pages worth of notes for my book. I wanted to see a project completed from beginning to end. Cooking at the moment was the only thing to do that provided that sort of satisfaction.
It’s a known fact that most artists are only appreciated until after they are dead. Basquiat’s painting on loan to the Brooklyn Museum right now is what comes to mind. Unfortunately, drugs cut short the life of a young Haitian artist making it in New York City.
For now copywriting has not supported me. Copywriting has inspired my vision to be a writer. Nevertheless, I really appreciate the temp. jobs when they do come.
I wish I could say the same for copywriting assignments.
Something very much a coincidence happened as I was preparing the Pain Mais.
As I flipped through the channels to get some noise going other than my breathing, a show called Afro Pop had a commemorative special on the earthquake that occurred in Haiti in 2010.
As I stirred the thick cornmeal gruel on the stove top, my emotions were stirred as well to the visual reminders of seeing the devastation of an earthquake on my people in their country. Inadequate is not the word that can describe how I felt.
Instead of trying to make sense of what I saw, I focused on the task at hand, making the bread of my people.
Many lives lossed yes. Haitian people got up after the earth shook and broke buildings but not their spirit to live. They saved those who could be saved. Money disappeared. What else was new? Tents and makeshift houses came up. The lines of the cruel blows of disappointment etched onto faces ready to resist. And here I stood connected by the bread of my people. We’re surviving. Promises made, promises broken. We are here ready to move forward. Today we made the most of what we could. Waiting for Bon Dieu to answer our requests. We know the routine. We must wait. And in waiting we are still here.
Haiti forever in my heart.