As a Haitian immigrant, Nadege creates recipes that tell the story of Haiti’s rich culinary history with a modern twist. Many of the recipes in her book are inspired by the various cuisines of the New York City dining scene, along with her extensive world travels. In her new book, she also launches a line of denim embroidered Carabella Aprons that highlights Haitian fashion and culture.
Nadege founded her catering company, Fleurimond Catering, 18 years ago. Fleurimond was also a contestant on the food competition series, “Chopped;” has been featured in Food and Wine, Epicurious, BET, NY Daily News; and has catered her culinary delights the White House, along with many other organizations.
She spoke to BK Reader about her new cookbook, learning to enjoy solitude, and how food can bring us together.
BK Reader: Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
Nadege Fleurimond: Well, cooking has always been therapeutic for me. It’s part of my work, my business. It’s how I process. So when the pandemic hit, there was a lot of turmoil. … Everything that I did was basically shut down. I needed that time to process it. Taste of Solitude is about taking that time to reconnect. I think solitude really gives you that time to sit and understand who you really are so that when you step out into the world you are able to be your authentic self no matter what else is happening around you. For me, the only way to process it was to cook.
Cooking is all about the conversations you can have with other people. So I started cooking live on Facebook. Everyone kept telling me how much they needed this, so it became their own type of therapy too. I just kept thinking about what magic could come out of this. And it led me to this book. I wanted to share those lessons I learned while cooking online, and I just wanted to stay connected with people.
We’ve already pre-sold around 150 copies. I had no intention of writing a cookbook, it just kind of all came together.
BKR: Food and eating, in general, have always been a group activity. It’s best when done with other people. With the pandemic, how has your relationship with food changed?
NF: While I was still making food, I had disconnected from the human component of it. Being in quarantine helped me reconnect to food for myself. I needed those moments to connect to ingredients and memories that help incite particular recipes.
The pandemic also reminded me of the universal power of food. As a Haitian person, it’s always been my job to tell stories not just about food, but about Haiti. Our history and culture are told through these inspired dishes. This is a fusion book, so it allowed me to show that universal chord that exists among different cultures. Many of my dishes are inspired by travels, like a black rice paella, inspired by my time in Spain. There are differences, but you can see how each cuisine is connected universally.
BKR: What is your favorite recipe in the book?
NF: My favorite recipe in the book is the squash bisque. It’s a take on our soup joumou. There are no vegetables. It’s just a creamy squash bisque with a caramelized onion grilled cheese sandwich. Pumpkin soup is very important to Haitian history and I wanted to share that history, but with my own modern twist. This book is all about comfort food and this recipe feels like home.
My last book was a traditional Haitian cookbook, Haiti Uncovered. It was a coffee table book, so it was a thick book, 300 pages. It was about sharing Haitian history and culture. For me, writing is all about educating and storytelling through food.
BKR: Since restaurants are shut down, you’ve had to cook more often. Did you get tired of cooking?
NF: Well, that’s why I’ve always preferred being a caterer to owning a restaurant. I can step into cooking when I want to. As much as I love cooking, I also love dining. Dining is where I get most of my inspiration from. I love NYC dining, I love the various cultures and I can really step into the different foods available to me. I had to not only cook for myself—since I can’t eat out—but then my audience became dependent on me cooking. Cooking on social media made this terrible time better for them, so I had to continue with my cooking.
BKR: Do you think you’ll change the way you do business after this?
NF: Being online gave me the opportunity to engage with my audience and have a wider outreach, so I think that’s something I’ll continue with. It’s giving me time to explore the different possibilities of audience outreach. I think social media reminded us that we can still connect with other people. But it can never be a complete replacement from real life. People are still wondering if I’ll do live events or cooking classes, so there will need to be a merger. People still want that real-life connection.
Taste of Solitude publishes on July 31. You can pre-order the book here.
This coverage of coronavirus is a special to BK Reader. We are asking for your help in keeping our coverage and database current with any helpful references and news tips. Please send all tips to [email protected]. With your help, Brooklyn will emerge stronger and more unified as a borough. Thank you.