Twenty years ago I met Father Tom — one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met.
Father Tom is an American priest but I met him in the slums of Haiti. He had just started a school in Cite Soleil, one of the poorest, most dangerous slums in our hemisphere. There were no public schools there so Father Tom invited parents to bring their children to his school. It was free and the children would receive a meal every day. For most of these children, it was the only meal they would receive.
Father Tom took me to an abandoned prison where I saw mothers mixing bouillon and spices with mud and forming it into perfect mud cakes to dry in the sun. They fed these mud cakes to their children when they had no food to put in their mouths. This is a sight I will never forget for the rest of my life.
We started helping “Pere Tom,” as they call him, 20 years ago. He named his school after our beloved daughter Becky, who was a reporter at the Xenia Gazette when she was killed in an auto accident.
We still support him and raise money for him and I still send little Christmas presents to all the kids. Instead of 150 kids, there are now more than 5,000! So next week, when I finish my 88 county tour, I’m going to finish packing up my 5,000 presents for the kids and send them off. Thanks to all my friends who collect Beanie Babies and Hot Wheel cars and pencils and harmonicas.
Sometimes I like to make a big pot of Haitian rice and beans — what our school kids eat at the school every day. This is a flavorful sauce, made of oil with onions and peppers and whatever fresh vegetables are available, and a protein like chicken or fish, served over rice and beans. Here’s my version. I make it for the fundraiser we have each year for the Becky DeWine School at our daughter Jill’s house, usually around Becky’s birthday.
Haitian Rice & Beans
1 pound red beans
4 cups water
Bring the water and beans to a boil, and simmer gently, covered, for about 90 minutes. Beans should be tender, not mushy. Cool, drain the beans and reserve the liquid.
4 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
2 onions, chopped (or shallots or scallions)
1 tablespoon salt
Gently heat oil in Dutch oven. Chop together parsley, garlic, onion and salt. Add to oil and cook and stir over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Stir in:
4 cups rice
Stir until well coated with oil.
Add water to reserved bean liquid to make 9 cups. Add this to rice and bring to boil. Add beans and bring to boil again. Reduce heat and cook for about 20 minutes, covered. Uncover and cook for about another 5 minutes. Serve with Haitian Sauce.
3 tablespoons oil
2-3 onions, cut in thin wedges (about 2 cups)
1 green pepper, sliced thin
1 red pepper, sliced thin
1 to 2 hot peppers, finely minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Heat oil in saucepan. Cook and stir onions, peppers and garlic for about 2 minutes. Add:
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons vinegar
juice of one lemon or lime
Cook and stir for 3 minutes. Add:
6 cups chicken broth (or 6 cups water, 6 bouillon cubes)
1 cup coarsely chopped chicken*
*I cooked 4 chicken thighs in about 2 quarts water for 1 hour to make nice broth and meat.
Simmer for 20 minutes. Ladle over rice and beans.
Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, wife of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, and guest columnist. She’s traveling around the state handing out her newest cookbook, Fran DeWine and Tina Husted’s Family Favorites.