Esto es una tradición de nosotro. Desde que tengo uso de razón he comido habichuela con dulce los Viernes Santos. My mom tells me the stories of her youth with habichuelas con dulce with so much passion and delight. At times she can’t go on because she begins to laugh, especially when she says how she would hide them. Me acuerdo que yo 'echaba un poco en un pote y la escondía debajo de la ropa detrás de una cama para poder comer más después de la misa. She goes on to say that the Dominican Republic is the only country where people make this sweet and exquisite dessert. Mami said, “y yo he trabajao' con gente de otro países. Trabaje con Mexicanos, Nicaragüenses, Ecuatorianos, Salvadoreños, y ninguno la hacen. E' ma' ni lo Puertorriqueño la hacen. Pero a todo le gustan porque le llevaba un chin a cada uno y se la comian todita.
Just like mami, I too have been eating habichuela con dulce ever since I was a little girl. Every Holy Thursday night Mami would soak four or five pounds of beans. Then on Good Friday, she’d get up at the crack of dawn pa' hablandar las habichuelas. By the time I would get up, she was already blending the beans, roja pa que salgan oscura, with whole milk. Then she’d put them through a strainer because that’s how the people from El Cibao make them. La gente de la capital la hacen con to’ y grano pero a mi no me gustan asi, Mami professed. Once she blended the beans she would pour them into a huge Dominican doña pot with coconut and carnation milk, 2 or 3 cinnamon sticks, some clove and lots of sugar. I asked her about the pieces of coconut that she adds to the mixture. She said ay si lo pedazo de coco si son bueno. Yo cojo el coco y lo etrayo en el piso para que se rompa en pedacitos y después lo lavo con agua. This is how the recipe got handed down to me. Never any set measurements but I was told to keep adding ingredients and tasting to make sure that it tastes good. For her final detail she said there is one thing que le da el punto a la habichuelas. When she first told me this, I wondered what it could possibly be. Could it be the coconut, the carnation milk or the cinnamon? Mami said lo que le da el punto a la habichuela con dulce es la sal. Tu le hecha un chin de sal pa que le quite lo desabrio. Mucha gente no le echan sal y por eso es que le quedan mala. Oh mom is a big critic of habichuela con dulce! You would think she was a judge on one of those cooking shows. She knows everyone that makes a good habichuela con dulce and those that don’t quite meet her standards. She doesn’t like it when people add batatas or too much milk. And please don’t give my mother habichuela con dulce que están ahumada. She will leave the plate right there.
Habichuela con dulce is a tradition that will continue in my family. For the past two years, after I boil the beans I hand the rest over to my teenage daughter who asks for measurements and timing. I tell her the same thing I was told, keep adding, tasting and stirring until it is done.
4 lbs of beans
5 Cinnamon sticks
A few cloves
2 cups of whole milk
2 cans of carnation milk
2 cans of coconut milk
Sugar (lots of it)
Salt (un chin)
Milk crackers (optional)
(Keep adding ingredients and tasting)
1. In a big doña pot soak the beans the night before
2. Boil beans until soft - about two hours
3. Blend the beans with some whole milk
4. Strain the mix and add back to the doña pot (continue to do this until you have
blended all the beans
5. Add carnation milk, coconut milk, cinnamon sticks, and cloves and cook at
6. Continue to stir and make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan
7. Taste and crackers and or raisins and serve
(Note: It tastes much better the next day)
Marilyn Ramirez is a second-generation immigrant born and raised In Inwood, NYC. She’s been writing since her teenage years but until recently it was all in her journal. Last fall she was part of the Washington Heights Memoir Project and has has been writing short stories and poetry ever since. She’s is a public school teacher and currently lives in the Bronx with her two teenage children. She also has an adult son and a granddaughter who spends the summers with her. Her passions include spending time with her family, traveling, and doing capoeira.