Las Habichuelas con dulce are a Dominican tradition we eat every Good Friday during Holy Week. I do not know the origin of this dish but I have been eating it all my life. We eat habichuela dulce all Holy Week through Easter. On Easter we make a big caldero and serve it with our family. On Good Friday, we replace pork, chicken, turkey with some Marisco. We serve our “dinner” around 12pm with bread , a salad and a big Branzino as the main course. But the main attraction is always the habichuela dulce , made with coco , Leche carnercion, sugar, galleticas and raisins. It is best served when it is hot, you get to taste the sweetness of the beans.
Family gatherings when I was a kid was more of us. As we got older we went our separate ways, but being around family it was always a joy and we would be listening to old school Spanish music. Like bolero music from my grandfather's era and 80s music. My mom would buy us the Easter dresses at this small boutique store that was on Dyckman and Nagle. As we became adults the dinner table became just three or two of us. It varies per year but it was much simpler. We stopped going to church instead we pray at home. We stopped making dinners because it became too much for just a two-three of us. But the habichuela dulce always had to be made. It is like no matter if you were sick or healthy it had to be made. I asked my mother where did she learn how to make the habichuela dulce and she said her mother taught her. My mother, in turn, taught me. Over the years we adjusted to eachother's habichuelas. Habichuela dulce is a piece of me, from a land that I know little about. My mother brought that tradition to be closer to home and you always hear it amongst Dominican immigrants but I don’t know the origin nor the history of my parent's culture. So through eating the dish or any traditional dish I learn a little more about the culture.
Holy Week or Semana Santa is celebrated as carnival in DR. Here in the states, my parents just brought their food traditions and blended into their new life. Every Friday it was a tradition not to listen to music as a form of respect but I lived with a music addiction (I am a Jose Jose fan). My dad would always ignore the rule and he would blast music on Good Friday. My mom, sister and I would be embarrassed because we would be the only ones with music on while everyone around was paying their respects. As I got older, I notice that’s just his way of paying respect, listening to bolero on Friday’s. Easter Sunday was also a competition of vestidos de las flores at Church. My mom would dress us up in spring color dresses and we would visit family after church and then make our way to the playroom inside McDonald’s or the park on Dyckman and broadway. Dyckman street was every little girl's pasarela on Easter Sunday.
Today, April 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic has us sequestered in our own homes, away from our family. Habichuela dulce is a reminder to appreciate what we have while it's still here. My message to COVID “¿Crees que vas a evitar que continúe la tradición? Aquí hay una taza de habichuela con dulce para que puedas relajarte y dejar de ser tan pesao.”
The Valerio Family recipe for Habichuela con Dulce
3lbs of beans
2-3 cans of carnation milk
2-3 cans of coconut milk
Pinch of salt
(I usually eyeball the ingredients. No exact ingredient amount )
1. Place beans with cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks, cloves and water in a pot. Keep adding water when it drys up till beans are soft.
2. Remove pot from stove then strain the bean mix
3. Add new cinnamon sticks, ground, and cloves with the milk.
4. Add salt and sugar. Stir
5. Add butter. Keep stirring till thick
6. Ready to serve
Cookies and raisins are served to taste.
Yaddy Valerio is an NYC raised Dominican American from Inwood Manhattan. She is a baker + writer + food Everything enthusiastic. She writes for her site “In Yaddy’s Words” capturing her readers with her authentic storytelling. She believes stories save lives and that is the epitome of living. Writing and reading have helped me overcome many of life struggles. She is the creator of “In Yaddy’s Words.“
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