Food Fight!

If you can't stand the heat, get out of Lupe Nunez's kitchen.

"Chocolate," answers Nunez, who confesses to a serious habit. She points to a two-foot-long box of Valentine's candy sitting on the table. "You'd better grab a piece now if you want some." She's not allowed to eat quite as much of it since her mild heart attack last August, when the stress of the whole business finally got to her.

"We've had good days and we've had bad days," Nunez says. "You know what were the good ones? Our Christmas parties. We used to have the whole family in my house, and we'd start opening packages at eleven in the morning, and we'd be done at seven. It would be a potluck, and there'd be so much food and wrapping paper that it would take us days to clean it up." Adds Casco, "Mom always insisted that we go from youngest to oldest when we opened gifts, but then she'd be so mad when she was opening hers at seven o'clock."

But because of the bad blood over La Bonita, the family doesn't celebrate Christmas like that anymore. "I'd just like this all to be over and forget about it, get on with my life," Nunez says. "Of course, I always thought I'd be leaving a successful La Bonita to my grandchildren...," she trails off, and then sighs. "This waiting is killing me."

Her tiny frame starts to slump down in the booth, and tears well up in her eyes. "I'll be okay," she says, waving off relatives who want to console her. "Maybe I will be able to open up a small La Bonita again someday. What else am I going to do?

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