food media

What Did Bon Appétit Do Now?

Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Put down the tea and sip on this piping-hot broth. Condé Nast’s food magazine Bon Appétit is under fire yet again for diversity issues. This time, readers are saying an alleged soup joumou recipe that went up on Tuesday, written by adviser and guest editor chef Marcus Samuelsson, is an example of cultural appropriation. Soup joumou is a squash-based soup that’s historically and culturally significant in Haiti. The story behind the soup, passed down through generations, is that Black people and slaves weren’t allowed to have the soup under French rule. When Haiti gained its freedom in 1804, the soup became synonymous with independence. It’s still eaten every New Year’s Day in Haitian households across the diaspora. Where authentic soup joumou is stewed with beef, plantain, and potatoes, the Bon Appétit version opts for coconut milk, cinnamon sticks, and candied nuts. So, don’t let the 1.1 star rating confuse you. If these Bon Appétit commenters could’ve given this recipe zero stars, they would’ve.

Instead, they fully hashed out their issues with the so-called soup joumou. “Oh MY GOODNESS,” one anonymous commenter wrote. “AS AN AUTHENTIC BORN AND RAISED HAITIAN. I CAN PROMISE YOU THAT IS PUMPKIN SOUP WITH HONEY PECANS.” Others were shocked by the recipe’s introduction, which passingly referred to its history in a parenthetical beginning with “legend has it.” The recipe’s controversy peaked Wednesday morning, however, when one of the initial three authors listed, Yewande Komolafe, claimed in an Instagram post that she had nothing to do with it. “I didn’t write this recipe,” she wrote on her Instagram Story. “And I definitely didn’t write those headnotes. I did not submit this to @bonappetitmag or @marcuscooks and will request that they take my name off of this.” In a feed post, the recipe developer explained that she contributed recipes for Marcus Samuelsson’s recent book, The Rise, but not the “soup joumou” recipe excerpted on Bon Appétit. “A claim to tell and celebrate Black stories is just not good enough,” she added. “If these stories, and the individuals they belong to, are not treated with care and thought, given context and truth, then that claim is exploitative.”

By Wednesday afternoon, the recipe on Bon Appétit’s website had been retitled “Independence Day Soup,” then retitled once more to “Pumpkin Soup With Spiced Nuts.” The introduction now only tells the history of soup joumou, and Samuelsson is listed as the lone author. The chef himself has yet to comment, perhaps because he can’t take his eyes away from the comments section, which continues to plead for justice for soup joumou and death to the offensive “squash and coconut milk bisque,” as one dubbed it.

What Did Bon Appétit Do Now?