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How a soup made by slaves for their masters became a cultural symbol

A thick pumpkin soup from Haiti—considered a symbol of freedom from colonial rule—is recognised by the UNESCO as a prized cultural heritage

In this Dec. 3, 2019 photo, street vendors ready ingredients to make soup to sell in the Cite Soleil slum of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The United Nations cultural agency has on Thursday inscribed a traditional Haitian soup recipe that was cooked by African slaves for their owners on the prized intangible cultural heritage list. (AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery)

Haitians on Thursday celebrated U.N. cultural agency UNESCO'S declaration that the country's traditional pumpkin soup known as "soup joumou" is of intangible cultural value to humanity, a rare bright spot for a country battered by tragedy this year.

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The soup is a slightly spicy delicacy that is typically enjoyed on New Year's Day. It often includes beef or goat, as well as pasta, potatoes and carrots.

During the years of French colonial slavery it was served only to slave masters, but it became a symbol of freedom for nation's majority Black population when Haiti gained independence on January 1, 1804.

"Soup joumou reminds us of the sacrifices our ancestors made to fight slavery and racism on earth," wrote former foreign minister Claude Joseph on Twitter. "I welcome this news with a lot of pride and emotion."

The decision was made during UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is being held online this week.

"It is a celebratory dish, deeply rooted in Haitian identity, and its preparation promotes social cohesion and belonging among communities," UNESCO wrote in a statement.

Other culinary traditions on UNESCO's Intangible Heritage list include the preparation of Korean fermented cabbage known as kimchi, a flattened sourdough bread called il-ftira made in Malta and "hawker food" served on the streets of Singapore.

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