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SUNDAY BRUNCH

(The Original) Spice Girl

September 14, 1997|MICHAEL QUINTANILLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Call her one red-hot great-grandmama.

Dolores Mun~oz, at 77, won't mind.

While Rosarita and Juanita are fictional sen~oritas on the labels of other Mexican food brands, Dolores is for real. Her portrait appears on cans of the menudo that have had her name on them since 1954. It was then that she and husband Basilio, along with Frank and Georgia Maxey (who later sold their interests), co-founded Dolores Canning in East Los Angeles.

At Basilio's urging--he believed people would buy his wife's tasty cooking--Dolores whipped up batch after batch, testing and tasting and "dreaming menudo" until the ingredients of the spicy beef tripe and hominy stew were perfecto.

But along with the delicacy, they needed a label. So Basilio gave the printer his favorite photo of Dolores in her 20s, dressed as an Espan~ola for a Carnival party.

And soon, how shall we say, it was in the can.

With Latina va-va-voom, Dolores--a young Ann Miller look-alike--cools herself with a lace fan, her chin brushing a partially exposed shoulder. A red rose and a mantilla adorn her long dark hair, a wisp of a curl framing one side of her porcelain-like face. Manicured eyebrows, hoop earrings, shiny red lipstick and rouged cheeks round out the image that has survived all these decades, selling pickled pigs feet and lips, salsa and bricks of frozen chile.

Basilio died in 1979, and their three sons now run the company.

Truth be told, Mun~oz, who was born in Mexico City and lives in Arcadia, isn't very fond of her portrait.

"Everybody knows I hate that picture," she says.

Still when people stop her and ask, "Is that you on that can?" she blushes and confesses.

"I am so old now, I feel so foolish about it. But I tell them, 'Yes, it is me, Dolores.' And then I say, 'Just like my recipes, I haven't changed much. I'm still a spicy lady.' "

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