Esquivel, L. (1992). Like water for chocolate: a novel in monthly installments, with recipes, romances, and home remedies. New York: Doubleday. 9780385420167
When I began my ill-fated study of Spanish in high school, my awesome Spanish teacher suggested we watch movies or TV shows in Spanish. Soon after, I stumbled upon the movie version of Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate. For the prudish sophomore I was, this was both eye opening and jaw dropping.
A couple of years later, some of my college friends raved about the book. The numerous recommendations and the accolade of being a 1001 Books book reinitiated my interest in reading Like Water for Chocolate.
A grandniece tells us the story of the protagonist – Tita de la Garza. Tita is the youngest of three daughters who live in early twentieth century Mexico, close to Texas. Mama Elena de la Garza has a ranch and rests easy in the knowledge that her spirited youngest daughter, Tita, will take care of her. This is tradition – the youngest daughter cares for her mother until death.
When Tita and a young man named Pedro fall in love, Mama Elena bars it and foists her second eldest daughter, Rosaura, on Pedro. In a world of pain, Tita’s only release is cooking. Tita cooks with all of her heart and this can be experienced by the consumers of the food. Similar to the saying, “If Mama ain’t happy. . .” Tita’s emotions become the eater of Tita’s food.
Perhaps it’s the magical realism but I sensed this to be a fairy tale. I liked Tita’s expression and use of the little control she has in her life. She’s no slouch.
Also, I liked that the book offered recipes – sort of going along with something Francis Ford Coppola said about making the first Godfather movie. Originally, the book was published in a magazine over a twelve month period. I considered myself fortunate to have all the stories and recipes condensed to one book.
Still, I did feel some sympathy for Rosaura; I don’t know if Esquivel had that in mind. She seemed to be in the way of everyone and used as a weapon against Tita and Pedro.
Three Out of Five Pearls
Places: Mexico, Texas