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  • Natalie Taylor


Apothecary in the Museo Histórico de San Miguel

I found this recipe, in Spanish, written by Maruja Gonzalez who still lives in San Miguel de Allende. She collaborated on the book Estelas de un Tiempo; and her novel, Los Empeños de Consuelo was published in 2005 and won a literary prize in Guanajuato. I thought her writing was quite amusing, and decided to translate this particular story to share with my readers.

I give you this little narrative because it captures an era, but it also because of what it reveals about women’s vanity (oh, c’mon, men’s as well)—something that crosses the boundaries of time. After all, if you scout through the internet, you will most certainly find actions, balms and ingestants that are as outrageous as the one described. So enjoy the recipe as explained by Maruja Gonzalez who said that it was “famous in San Miguel and the outlying areas.”

This recipe is very old. The ladies of San Miguel, who appreciated good skin, would order it from Tia Lola, because she was the only one who held the secret of this famous face cream. She would hide in the kitchen and mix all the ingredients without being seen.

The recipe was given to her by a relative from Chamacuero who had died of erysipelas [1], but with a smooth face. Tia Lola commercialized the product with great success. Once dead, I found it (she was dead, not I) well hidden under a folder in her chiffonnier (the recipe, not the aunt), and I confess, I stole it. Here it goes because, what do I need it for?

You pick a hen that is quite fat, preferably old. You kill her, trying to do so as quickly as possible so that the bile doesn’t spill. You open her up and take out the fat. This is cooked in a Bain-marie until the grease is released, and then strained. It’s mixed with benjui [2] and a thimbleful of rose water, ten cents worth of solid glycerin, and if you have an avocado on hand, mash a slice and integrate it well.

Apply shortly before going to bed for three days. On the fourth it could stink, but if still good, it can be used. If you use it continuously, you will notice an improvement of your skin. If you develop a rash, it’s better to get rid of it.

I forgot, you have to serenade her for two nights. [3]


[1] Severe skin infection

[2] Benzoin or Benjamin, a gum-resin.

[3] I presume she is speaking of the hen, not the aunt

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