Welcome to our journey, exploring African heritage foodways throughout the Diaspora 


legume + rice

legume + rice

Food Should be Colorful

by Mercelyne Latortue of Brooklyn, New York

Dish Prepared: Legume and rice

Date of Interview: October 25, 2015

Location of Interview: Graduate Hospital, Philadelphia

Interview: Pascale Boucicaut

Photographs: Adachi Pimentel

[Transcribed Interview Excerpt]

"Mercelyne, she can cook!" These were the first words I heard about Mercelyne when I was introduced to her through a mutual friend. She has made a life out of preparing and sharing delicious and healthful foods with families through her work as a chef and nutrition educator at Weaver's Way Coop. We spent the day with Mercelyne, who taught us how to make legume, a one-pot dish from Haiti that showcases the island's beautiful produce, that's then fattened up with thick chunks of seasoned beef. 

Born in Brooklyn, and raised in Haiti, Mercelyne has experience preparing her heritage dishes in a variety of settings. One thing she's noticed - everywhere, people like to make simple and nutritious meals that leave them with leftovers for the week. That's one of her favorite things about Legume, it's filling and healthy and reheats better and better each time. 

Mercelyne moved to Philadelphia to attend Temple University's College of Health Professionals and Social Work. She noticed that after months of eating in restaurants and takeout, her weight dropped and she felt her health declining. She went in search of Haitian food. A yelp review landed her in the Northeast, where she ordered a familiar dish that arrived on her table looking lackluster and pale, so unlike the Legume her father prepares which is rich in color, flavor, and nutrients. She called him up and asked him how to prepare it. 

Emanuel Latortue grew up in Port au Prince. The only son of thirteen children in his family, he grew up watching his twelve sisters prepare the daily meals. One day, Emanuel's sisters left him alone, each of them busy with other errands. When they returned home they were surprised to find him in the kitchen with a pot of legume he had prepared. Each member of his family gasped, "where did you learn how to do that?!" It was then they started teaching him to cook. He eventually grew up and taught his wife Florence, and then their daughter, to prepare his favorite Haitian dishes. Mercelyne says she'd eat rock soup if her dad prepared it.

According to Mercelyne, the secrets that makes her father's legume so good are love, passion, and blue soft-shelled crab legs. She says she's learning how to make her own taste like his. She cooks this dish often, which helps her feel close to her family in Brooklyn and in Haiti. "You have to know where you come from, to know where you are going," she says. The more she learns about her family's history in Haiti, the more she seems to extract recipes to prepare in her daily life. "And one day," she whispered to me almost as if in secret, "I want to open a restaurant with my dad here in Philly. It's his big dream too."

watching the cooking pot

pain patate

pain patate

djoumble + cassava fufu

djoumble + cassava fufu