INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER • Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico blends poignant romance, bittersweet wit, and delicious recipes.
This classic love story takes place on the De la Garza ranch, as the tyrannical owner, Mama Elena, chops onions at the kitchen table in her final days of pregnancy. While still in her mother's womb, her daughter to be weeps so violently she causes an early labor, and little Tita slips out amid the spices and fixings for noodle soup. This early encounter with food soon becomes a way of life, and Tita grows up to be a master chef, using cooking to express herself and sharing recipes with readers along the way.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Laura Esquivel’s sensuous Like Water for Chocolate feels as rich and satisfying as a delicious meal. Isolated on a rural Mexican farm, 15-year-old Tita is deeply in love with her handsome neighbor, Pedro, but her controlling mother forbids their marriage. The heartbroken Tita shares her lovelorn feelings entirely through food—transporting and even transforming her family and friends with dishes like quail with rose petals and chiles in walnut sauce. Mixing magic realism with the fervid passion of a classic ranchero love song, Esquivel’s heartbreaking, emotional love story became an equally passionate 1992 film, adapted by the author herself and directed by Alfonso Arau.
Each chapter of screenwriter Esquivel's utterly charming interpretation of life in turn-of-the-century Mexico begins with a recipe--not surprisingly, since so much of the action of this exquisite first novel (a bestseller in Mexico) centers around the kitchen, the heart and soul of a traditional Mexican family. The youngest daughter of a well-born rancher, Tita has always known her destiny: to remain single and care for her aging mother. When she falls in love, her mother quickly scotches the liaison and tyrannically dictates that Tita's sister Rosaura must marry the luckless suitor, Pedro, in her place. But Tita has one weapon left--her cooking. Esquivel mischievously appropriates the techniques of magical realism to make Tita's contact with food sensual, instinctual and often explosive. Forced to make the cake for her sister's wedding, Tita pours her emotions into the task; each guest who samples a piece bursts into tears. Esquivel does a splendid job of describing the frustration, love and hope expressed through the most domestic and feminine of arts, family cooking, suggesting by implication the limited options available to Mexican women of this period. Tita's unrequited love for Pedro survives the Mexican Revolution the births of Rosaura and Pedro's children, even a proposal of marriage from an eligible doctor. In a poignant conclusion, Tita manages to break the bonds of tradition, if not for herself, then for future generations.
A Flavorful Fantasy
Like Water for Chocolate is a tasty tale of magic and love set in turn-of-the-century Mexico.
Tita lives on her family’s ranch with her mother and sisters. On this ranch, Tita is in charge of taking care of her mother because of a family tradition requiring the youngest daughter to care for her mother until she dies. This rule is a source of conflict which causes Tita to drift away from her family. The distance between the members of the family begin when Pedro, Tita’s true love, comes to the ranch with his father to ask for Tita's hand in marriage. Mama Elena (Tita’s mother) denies Pedro, since Tita’s family duty forbids her to marry, but offers another one of her daughters. Pedro agrees to marry Tita’s sister Rosaura so he can stay close to Tita. Naturally, this causes a feud between Tita and Mama Elena and Rosaura all revolving around Pedro. Esquivel uses Pedro to constantly create conflict between all of the characters in the book.
In addition to dealing with the complexities of familial love and responsibility, this novel explores the importance of food and the kitchen in human relationships. In many families food is an expression of love and care. In this magical realism novel, Laura Esquivel turns food into a more literal transmitter of various emotions and feelings. Through Tita and her magical connection to the intricate dishes she prepares, her emotions are experienced by those who consume her culinary creations. For those she loves her food is some of the best in the world bringing joy and comfort. However, to the people in Tita’s life who cause her discomfort, her food is representation of her negative emotions and may even be poisonous. While Tita is preparing a wedding cake for her sister, she cries and her tears dilute the cake’s frosting. This cake causes everyone including those who she loves to be longing for something because that is how she felt. An example of her food bringing joy and nourishment is when Roberto, her nephew, needs breast milk and Tita is the only person that can provide the breast milk for him even though she was never pregnant.
One of the few issues I found while reading this book was that Tita’s magical powers were not clearly defined,and were developing even to the end when she eats candles to create an artificial fire. Also bothersome is that although Esquivel provides a basic setting of 20th century Mexico, she does not elaborate about historical events going on or even where in Mexico the family’s ranch is located. Even with its flaws, Esquivel shows how brilliant a writer she is by her use of vivid imagery to develop a better understanding of the role of food and magic play towards the novel’s theme. With each chapter, she takes the audience on a journey of changing mood through Tita’s character, making this story hard to put down. This book was an easy and fun read that included complex ideas and hidden meanings which add depth to the novel. I would recommend this book to those looking for a different and unique reading or those who enjoy magic and fantasy.
I have read this book multiple times and every time I love it, it’s amazing!
Should clarify that it wasn’t the audio book and made me waste $13