Black beans and salsa harness memories

I still remember having my first burrito.

I walked into the apartment after a long day of classes and was met with the aroma of black beans filling the apartment from top to bottom. The kitchen was alive for the first time since I moved here. All the blinds were open and the sun was spilling into the kitchen. I could see the lettuce, salsa, sour cream, whole wheat tortillas and steaming black beans rich with spices spread across the countertop. My friend’s mother sat a plate heaped with a burrito, seemingly fit to burst, in front of me, and we ate and talked. It was one of the best meals and conversations I’ve ever had.

This delicious, easy snack is the first real recipe I ever learned. My best friend and his mother lived with me for six months in 2008, teaching me not only this recipe, but a life lesson.

My friend and I used to make a tradition of driving her and her sister home after school and eating apples with peanut butter until her mother came home. During my junior year of high school, she and her family fled the state due to their mother’s abusive boyfriend. After a year or so on the run, they returned to Florida to finish a custody battle over my friend’s half-sister.

It was during the beginning of the legal battle that my friend and her mom came to live with me, and I began to pick up some of the habits that have stuck with me. One of the habits I formed was being sure to make a healthy meal at least once a day. Throughout her time running, she still managed to get her children the healthiest food that she could.

To this day, the burritos bring back a strong sense of love, concern and nostalgia. Although the recipe itself is rather simplistic in form, the emotions that it holds for me are truly complex.

Anytime I am feeling down or feel overwhelmed with school, bills, books, deadlines and chores, I think back to my friend’s mother and all she went through and the burritos jump to mind; I realize then that no matter what is happening in the world or in my life, there is one place that I have complete control…the kitchen.


Serves about 6 to 8 burritos.

2 cans organic black beans (feel free to add whichever spices you choose. I am fond of garlic powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper to give it a little kick)

1 package of whole wheat tortillas

1 head of lettuce

1 jar of salsa

Garnish with sour cream if desired

1. Add beans (and spices) to a medium saucepan and cook as the label directs.

2. To warm the tortillas, you can either put them in a skillet, individually, over medium-high heat for about a minute and a half on both sides.

3. Create your burrito. Add the black beans to the tortilla and layer the salsa, lettuce and sour cream. (Kitchen Hack Secret: If you add just a small amount of sour cream to the edge of the tortilla where it overlaps, it helps to seal it better).