7:00. It is still cool in the stone house, and the children stay snug under the covers. School has been canceled because of a teachers’ meeting. This doesn’t particularly please the two older children who just started school last week. Francisca and Humberto amuse their younger brothers and sister by showing them pictures in their new school books. Their baby sister nurses on her bottle and immediately goes back to sleep.
Maria takes advantage of the children’s quiet to go to the mill. Every night Maria boils dry com. In the morning she rinses the kernels and takes them to the mill to be ground. In the course of the day Maria will make at least a hundred tortillas for her family.
On her way back from the mill, she stops at one of the four tiendas (small family stores), which is owned by her in-laws. Her husband, Miguel, is sure to be there. Up at dawn, he heads for the pasture and brings his cows back to the ranchito and milks them. Then he visits with his brothers until Maria has prepared breakfast. Maria buys a piece of sausage, picks up her pail of cornmeal, and returns home.
8:30. Surrounded by hungry children, Maria prepares breakfast at the table. Her sister Ana arrives and distracts the children for her. Maria is diligent but moves quite slowly and is consequently sometimes overwhelmed by work. Her family often come to her rescue. Now she plugs her mixer into the hanging light-bulb socket and grinds a batch of fresh chilis for salsa. To save time, she cooks the first batch of tortillas on the gas stove. The rest will be cooked in a traditional stone oven built in the kitchen wall.
9:00 The children take their places at the table without being asked. Three-year-old Adriana is the greediest. A bit more sauce to finish off the tortillas and then one more tortilla to finish off the sauce. In her infant walker, little Maria de Jesus wheels around the table begging a mouthful from everyone. Mexican babies are familiar with the taste of peppers long before they can walk.