When my mother-in-law arrived from Monte Cristi, maletas in tow, as soon as they were dropped against the linoleum floor my husband was already asking, “Mami me vaz hacer una habichuelas, verdad?” “Pero, muchacho dejame ponerme mis chancletas primero y comer algo que me estoy muriendo del hambre” she would say with her raspy voice. Back in the day customs were no joke and her face said it all. It didn’t even have to be Semana Santa for her to grant his wish.
For many years I've witnessed the same routine, my husband craving for a dish, his mother making it for him. I don't usually jump on the bandwagon; whatever he asks me to try to cook I have no issues with, but some things like the suegra signature meals, you just don’t touch, they are sacred in my eyes. This is what habichuelas con dulce is for them. When I first heard of Habichuelas con dulce I said "Sweet beans? Are ya’ll serious?" Between you and I, I truly believe I didn’t jump at the opportunity to taste them because beans scream "EXTRA passing of gas", and we were fairly new in our relationship back in 96’ and who wants to experience a “peo party” with their new partner?
Once we were married, I remember la suegra her telling me, “las habichuelas en lata no se hace”. Bagged beans were best to soak until they become soft to the touch that they could actually be mushed between your fingers. She asked me if I had a strainer as she became acquainted with our new kitchen and the smell of an unfamiliar, yet very familiar sweetness of home floating throughout the air. This aroma drifted into my thoughts of her someday not being here to make habichuelas herself, I wanted to pass those traditional recipes down to our own children who carry la sangre Dominicana por dentro. It gave me a sense of pride to know that someday they can share these traditions with their own children, just like their Puerto Rican heritage that my mom has passed down to me.
Now, I beam with orgullo when my husband and I are side by side in the kitchen making them. The process includes a lot of stories and tons of laughs. We recall the times I absolutely hated, “sweet beans” because I hadn’t known any other way. I knew of my arroz con habichuelas as a Puerto Rican, but this my friends, is a whole other world. I worked up the courage to eat them with that added flare of galletas de leche with the cross in the middle. It was the greatest touch because that’s what it felt like when you placed this delight in your mouth. Pure heaven. Pure sweet goodness taking over your palate. An orgasmic explosion in your mouth, what took me so long to try this? The thoughts of peo’s never crossed my mind and it has become a staple in our family, not just during holiday. It’s all about cultures coming together and being open to delicious new things.
Eileen is a Domini-Rican who has worked in the New York City Public School system in Brooklyn since the tender age of twenty-one. She is a freelance writer, wife, and mother of two boys. She has contributed to various online publications throughout the years and heavily involved in social media. Eileen is the founder of MommyTeaches.com where she shares her love of blogging about her pride in teaching, parenting, reading, and the blessings and trials that life have to offer. A circle of Moms Top 25 teacher Mom, nominated for Best Latin@ Education Blogger, Hispano Blogger Award and The Social Revolucion SXSWi 2013 award. She’s been featured in El Diario in 2014, sharing her experience as a mother and educator. She graduated with honors from New York University with a Master’s in Early Childhood Education. She is state certified in Early Childhood Education from Birth-2 and grades 1-6. A children’s book collector from a young age, Eileen loves cooking all types of food, reading and being arts & crafty with her boys. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY from a Puerto Rican mother and American father. Eileen is married to her Dominican high school sweetheart for 18 years. She now resides in Orange County, NY and likes to share that she is a city girl gone country. Follow Eileen on Twitter @EileenCCampos, @MommyT3aches and on Instagram @eileenccampos