Life in Fondwa

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The meaning of homemade

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Tuesday brought an occasion that the Sisters have been looking forward to for months. Sister Melicia and Sister Claudette took their temporary vows, the first two novices to do so in the newly-founded Sisters of St. Anthony of Fondwa. It has been nine years since Fr. Joseph founded the congregation, and after a few false starts the community finally has its first full members.

The ceremony took place in the St. Anthony Church, 10 minutes down the road from the APF Center. Guests came from all over Haiti, including a number of sisters, brothers, priests, and foreign missionaries. All told there were about 300 participants, all converging on the tiny village of Fondwa in the remote mountain valley two hours south of Port-au-Prince.

Though they don’t have many material resources, the Sisters pulled out all the stops for this grand occasion. The church was beautifully decorated with flowers and ribbons, and six older gentlemen sported colorful hand-crafted “Welcome” signs to greet the invitees. The greatest production was the reception that followed, during which 300 people were served a full meal of beans and rice, turkey, goat, fried plantains, eggplant à la Française, salad, french fries, and popcorn. The popcorn seemed a bit out of place to me, but it’s a sort of delicacy because they prepare it so rarely. Another small touch was yellow mustard, which didn’t really go with anything but made the event just a bit more fancy. Everything, and I mean everything, came down to the last minute (in true Haitian style), but somehow it all came together and everyone seemed to enjoy the feast.

The whole ordeal was capped off by not one but four impressive cakes. In the two days that I observed the baking of these cakes (that’s right, a full two days), I came to a new understanding of the term ‘homemade.’ The process included hours of beating the butter, sugar, milk, eggs, flower, and rum in a large tub with a flat stick, then cooking each cake one-by-one in a small oven, and finally decorating them elegantly with an improvised icing. After participating for just a few minutes in the beating stage, I have half a mind to write Betty Crocker about how she mislabels her products as homemade. I now know that homemade means that you hurt after you bake it, and the only remedy is the sweet taste of the final product. And oh, how sweet it was.


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