Haitian pop-up dinner brings politics, culture to the table

Storytelling, discussion and food come together in collaboration between Boston College dining team, faculty and members of the BC community from Haiti.

Discussing politics over a meal isn’t off limits in the mind of Frank Bailey, executive chef at Boston College (BC). On the contrary, he sees a natural connection between sharing food and sharing ideas and viewpoints. Last year, his pop-up dinners focused on countries affected by the proposed travel ban. Recent headlines surrounding negative comments about Haiti and other countries spurred this latest political pop-up, where more than 50 people attended, and room was made for more, since the event was about inclusion, after all.

“Once we saw how much interest there was, we decided to try and say yes to anyone that was interested,” Bailey says. “It’s hard not to include people in an event about inclusion.”

The event came about during a chat about politics between Bailey and Lynne Anderson, professor and director of BC’s English Learners Program.

“Lynne and I were speaking and it turned out we were both frustrated watching members of our community struggle after hearing the comments of our president about immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Africa,” Bailey says. “I brought our idea of a pop-up dinner of Haitian food to Beth Emery, director of dining services, and she thought it was a great idea, so we jumped into action.”

Over just three days, the event was organized and menus were planned, featuring foods from Haiti’s rich culinary playbook, including soup joumou, a traditional dish with historical significance (more on that later, plus the recipe).

Combining food, politics, literature and history is “a natural partnership,” Bailey says. “Storytelling and food have been joined in culture for all time and what better way to bring people together to discuss their story than over a meal that speaks to the cultural traditions of that storyteller’s home?”

“This was an incredible event since three of our Haitian team members were able to share their stories with students and faculty at this wonderful meal,” Emory adds.

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