Le Boudin (brief memories from Guadeloupe)
Food. I love it. It makes me feel connected to people. Through my global work with nonprofits, I notice how people eat, what they eat, and how they choose to grow and consume resources. Over the years, more and more people seem to have subscribed to the expression: “My body is a temple,” which in modern times has come to mean treating our individual bodies with respect, kindness, and love by eating well and exercising. In ancient times, however, people were told that they must not preserve their bodies for selfish purposes, but for the greater good. According to Hindu thought, a temporal body was simply a borrowed assortment of five elements that allowed a soul to serve a divine being. Similarly, the Christian Bible stated that a body didn’t belong to a human, but to God. For individuals to experience true health, they had to participate in taking care of entire communities. In a literal sense, the body was treated like a temple, a foreign concept to all but the most religious modern-day person.
Over the last couple years in Guadeloupe, I've been invited by a few local families to take photos of the making of boudin rouge Créole, a sausage made of pig’s blood, bread, and spices that is stuffed into casings and then sold in markets and served on holidays. As I observed the process, I learned a lot about the history of the sausage, from its first mention by Homer, through the Middle Ages in England and France, and eventually, to French territories such as Guadeloupe in the Lower Antilles.
Hundreds of kilos of boudin rouge are made by the family to both sell in local market and also to give as gifts to friends and family. Although a small-scale home sausage-making production might seem like the last place to learn a lesson about spiritual nourishment, the care given towards not only making, but also sharing this delicacy with others during holidays, had taught me that in modern-day society, food can be used as a catalyst for strengthening a community.
A morning is always sacrificed to make the boudin rouge, but the time passes quickly with a lot of laughter. Whereas I find the process a little hard to stomach, I have a deep appreciation for the amount of work that goes into making the delicacy, as well as an admiration of the people who continue the long tradition for their families. In the afternoon, the boudin is delivered to markets and friends, and within days, the decadent treat – the product of history, tradition, and community – is eaten in homes across Guadeloupe.