How To:

Today I went to visit Bo to find her making…basically, burnt corn. She told me she was making cham cham (a sweet treat that a kid will jump all over you for, the consistency of the crumbs at the bottom of a Cheerios bag). My dear friend, who has shown me how to make a bird from freshly killed to boiling over the three-stone fire as well as fried dough treats to sell in market – asked if I’d like to learn. Of course, Bo! She was kind enough to let me take some photos when my hands weren’t being used.

Bo & her little brother with step one: burnt corn. (Actually, that's not accurate - step one is getting the extra-hard Haitian corn off of the cob and into a bucket. That bucket gets dumped, one batch at a time, into the pot).

Bo & her little brother with step one: burnt corn. (Actually, that’s not accurate – step one is getting the extra-hard Haitian corn off of the cob and into a bucket. That bucket gets dumped, one batch at a time, into the pot).

Before I go any further, I want to point out that the evening was a reflection of the kid’s story “The Little Hen” – you know the momma who’s making bread….and no one wants to help, but everyone wants to eat the finished product? Except for two or three faithful brothers, there were a lot of friends that happened to show up and play – beside us – the further we got in the process.

Here's a picture of some sugar cane in a bucket, the ugly chickens with crazy feathers, and...empty space. Courtesy of Wodniy.

Here’s a picture of some sugar cane in a bucket, the ugly chickens with crazy feathers, and…empty space. Courtesy of Wodniy.

 

This is what me "helping" looks like half the time. Covered in people & mouth open as I ask another question, sitting in the doorway of the room that Bojauna's family sleeps in.

This is what me “helping” looks like half the time. Covered in people & mouth open as I ask another question, sitting in the doorway of the room that Bojauna’s family sleeps in.

So Bo finishes burning the corn until that bowl you see in the picture above is full. In batches of a few handfulls at a time, she just threw the corn right into the pot until the corn was slightly blackened. Picking up this bowl, a handful of peanuts (which are expensive – the ratio of peanuts to the corn is at least 1:20), and another bucket and sifter for me – we stood up and she said “Let’s go!”

…Where are we going?

Across the small path behind her home to the neighbor’s yard, just walking right in and going to their giant mortar and pestle. As we walked I asked “I can come to? We’re just going right in?” – Bo laughed at me, which she does a lot, and assured me with multiple “wi”s.

We walk in and greet the neighbors, turns out they know me and are happy to have me there, and after wiping out the mortar the first small handful of burnt corn goes in…

Oh look, more people joined. Besides Dodo, who's holding the pestle and pounding corn, this audience is holding out for a sample of the almost finished product.

Oh look, more people joined. Besides Dodo, who’s holding the pestle and pounding corn, this audience is holding out for a sample of the almost finished product.

First – small handful by small handful, you pound the corn to get the outside shell off. This will get tossed and the corn inside will be used.

Lots of pounding, lots of trading the pestle between Dodo, Bo, and I.

Lots of pounding, lots of trading the pestle between Dodo, Bo, and I.

Then you have to pound the corn again, now that it’s been pounded the first time. Then that gets sifted, and what isn’t dust-like gets put back in to be pounded some more.

Bringing over some corn that's been sifted out to put back in the mortar.

Bringing over some corn that’s been sifted out to put back in the mortar.

 

Peanuts get pounded around the middle of the process.

Sugar is added as you start to get more and more cham cham powder.

Everyone is begging for another handful. (small pile put in your palm, and you just lick it up or throw it in your mouth)

Mom's helping with the sifting. Note Maxon (blue shirt) and his little stance. In the middle of  crowd, this is usually the pose he takes. Gets me every time!

Mom’s helping with the sifting. Note Maxon (blue shirt) and his little stance. In the middle of crowd, this is usually the pose he takes. Gets me every time!

Still working.

Still working.

An almost scary face as he tries to get a free sample....or at least a picture while waiting for one.

An almost scary face as he tries to get a free sample….or at least a picture while waiting for one.

Dodo (left) & Tasha (middle) snacking on some cham cham as the batch is almost finished. Tasha was NOT happy to have a surprise hug mid-picture. She's one of my favorite four year olds.

Dodo (left) & Tasha (middle) snacking on some cham cham as the batch is almost finished. Tasha was NOT happy to have a surprise hug mid-picture. She’s one of my favorite four year olds.

Okay, so the cham cham is done! That was a lot of work – glad it’s over. Time to wipe out the mortar and wave goodbye to the neighbors as Bo and I walk back (just us, the small crowd stayed across the road) to her home. The whole point of making cham cham was for profit, to sell at school tomorrow. Time to package it! I was trusted with holding the bags and getting more cham cham to try.

These bags are skinny, my two fingers to open them were almost too big. I looked with big eyes asking "how are you going to fill this?" She laughed at me, again. "You'll see".

These bags are skinny, my two fingers to open them were almost too big. I looked with big eyes asking “how are you going to fill this?”
She laughed at me, again. “You’ll see”.

With a small plastic spoon, one small dump at a time. At this point she let me know her back was hurting – mine would be too!

IMG_3032

And they’re done – bags to be sold for 5 gourde a piece (a little over ten cents).

Ready to eat!

Ready!

Before finishing, Bo called a sibling to grab a bigger bag for her – filled it and gave it to me!

“Bo, what is this for??! You can sell this!”

“It’s for my servant!” said with a smile (servant sounds funny, but that’s the literal translation!)

She insisted that I took it, smiling big as I thanked her. And we were done ! She walked me home as the sun was setting and it was time for me to go.

& that’s how you make cham cham! Tell all your friends, now you can make it 🙂 Burnt corn, a handful of peanuts, and plenty of sugar mixed it to create a little treat for friends of all ages.

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