Like Water For Chocolate
Prepared by: Laura Esquivel
Translated from the Spanish by: Carol and Thomas Christensen
1/3 cup Mexican Revolution
A pinch of magic
1 cup romantic love
A heart full of dreams, finely crushed
1/2 cup feminism
1 controlling mother
1 cup filial piety
1 cup independence
Stir ingredients together well over high heat, until concoction comes to a roaring boil. Continuing stirring for 241 pages. You can read immediately or wait as long as you wish, since it will never spoil with age.
Above is my version of the “recipe” that Laura Esquivel might have used to create this lovely tale, modeled after the recipes that she describes throughout this book. I have a wise librarian to thank for this particular gem of a novel. When I told her I was looking for books by influential Mexican authors, she immediately directed me to Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate. This novel covers the beginning of feminism in Mexico and the Mexican Revolution by depicting the life and struggles of one controlling, traditional widow and her three daughters (Wikipedia). The characters can be interpreted as allegories, with Tita representing the new ideas fighting for dominance during the Mexican Revolution, including women’s rights, and her mother representing the old, traditional ways. I have been very interested in finding authors who employ magical realism to tell their stories, so I was naturally drawn to Esquivel. (You may see a fair number of magical realist stories in this blog; for example, I am currently searching for House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende so that I can read it for my entry about Peru).
The story is divided into twelve chapters, one for each month of the year, with a recipe at the beginning of each that is fully incorporated into life of the main character, Tita de la Garza. This story is a richly sensual experience, with authentic, mouth-watering Mexican dishes prepared at the beginning of each chapter that often provoke strong emotional reactions – such as passion, heartache, or rage – when eaten by the characters in the story. During these experiences, the author incorporates magical elements as natural occurrences. For example, after one meal, Tita’s sister Gertrudis runs naked out of the shower because she is so aroused that the water droplets melt when they touch her skin and cause the wooden shower enclosure to burst into flames (Esquivel 50).
I deeply empathize with Tita, who is forbidden from marrying the love of her life, Pedro, by her cold, authoritarian mother. Her sweet, nurturing nature and constant struggle to reconcile filial duty with romantic love makes the reader hurt for her as she experiences heartbreak time and again.
I really like the title of this novel because it fits so perfectly. The title is the English translation of the saying in Spanish, Como aqua para chocolate, which refers to the boiling water used to make hot chocolate. The saying is a simile for describing strong emotions, usually sexual passion or anger (Wikipedia).
Next week: The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. See you then!