Paul Farmer

Harvard Medical School

Greetings from rural Haiti. Given Sid's contributions to our understanding of this part of the world, you'd think I'd send a recipe for diri ak djondjon, or some other savory Haitian dish.

But since Sid's interested in the whole world, and particularly in its working classes, I want to share what my mother did to feed eight people. We lived in a trailer park in Florida, and she was working as a Winn Dixie grocery store cashier. A job with few benefits of note, but she did have access to free or cut-rate canned food if the cans were dented. Of course the contents were perfectly fine . . . She found a recipe in, I believe, Redbook Magazine (sold of course at the check-out stand), for a delicacy we came to call "hot dog bean soup." One of my three sisters promises to write a memoir of our childhood with this as the title, because we had it, often enough, three times a week. Funny thing, though: we liked it. In fact, to this day my giant of a brother (he's about 6' 5'', bigger than my other giant brother, who is a pro wrestler) still asks Mom to make it for him as a treat, whereas many would turn their noses up at such provender.

Here's how my mom makes it:

She writes: "Here's the recipe for HOT DOG BEAN SOUP. My recall for precise amts. is kinda shaky so pls. excuse. Besides, it's not an exact science.

Hot Dog Bean Soup

One half stick butter or margarine
1 lg.can pork and beans (Campbell's is fine, but the cheaper Winn Dixie brand was called Thrifty Maid)
1 cup milk
1 lb. hot dogs, diced
c. 2-3 tbsps. of flour
1 can sweet corn

In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Slowly add flour to form paste. Add milk, a bit at a time, till mixture is smooth and creamy. Toss in your can o' beans (with chunks o' pork), then the hot dogs (cut into bite-sized pieces), and enfin the corn, preferably juicy niblets. Stir on low heat for five to ten minutes or until someone says, 'I'm starvin, ma,' which tends to occur within minutes of starting the process.

Portion out and serve to hungry family. I know from experience that a dutch oven of this sludge can sate eight impressive appetites. If that doesn't work, pass around some baking-powder biscuits (good ballast) to complete yr. lovely repast.

Thus writes my mother. When my father died suddenly, she was about to turn 47. She later went to Smith College. In fact, I was then a student at Harvard and drove her to her interview. Of course she got in and there she read, in her anthropology classes, a certain Professor Mintz . . . I'll be curious to know how the "sociological imagination" (in the C. Wright Mills sense) of Sid Mintz chooses to class this very American recipe.

Fondly, from central Haiti,