Word of advice: do NOT read this when you’re hungry.
Like Water for Chocolate is Laura Esquivel’s classic tale of food and passion. Tita, the youngest daughter of an all-female household, is born full of love for food, and for a young man named Pedro. However, tradition forbids marriage for the youngest daughter, as she must live out her days caring for her mother. In desperation, Pedro marries Tita’s sister, Rosaura. Tumultuous years follow, flavoured with rebellion, heartbreak, and love.
As you probably know, each chapter is a month that comes with its own recipe. These range from Christmas sweets to how to make matches. Here’s a cook who created one of the central dishes, quail with rose petal sauce – a recipe made with such passion that it causes one of the characters to smoke, and the heat from her body causes part of the house to go up in flames. I’m no great cook, but the recipes in Like Water for Chocolate made me want to create complicated dishes to try to capture the tastes and emotions that are so powerfully expressed in the novel.
I’d be really interested to read how this family’s tradition of the younger daughter fits into larger narratives about Mexico, especially as it is set at the turn of the twentieth century, a time of great revolution. I have absolutely no knowledge about Mexican history, but I do find it interesting that, historically, rigid social roles are most powerfully enforced in times of change. On this front, Like Water for Chocolate is especially interesting in regards to motherhood, and the caregiver role (and how those are not necessarily the same).
I was hugely impressed by Esquivel’s subtle magic. I’m definitely going to check out her other novels – I’m wondering why the others didn’t reach such commercial success in the English-speaking world.