Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Finally able to finish reading this famous novel by Laura Esquivel. I had 5 attempts in the past but I was put to sleep for some reason before getting past the 4th chapter. Its a good fictional romance that is sure to awaken the senses.
Chapters are divided into months of the year, with corresponding recipes.
Tita de la Garza is the youngest of 3 girls in a very matriarchal Mexican family. Her mother, the chief antagonist, Mama Elena imposed a family tradtion where the youngest daughter’s life is dedicated to taking care of the mother, hence marrying is not an option.

She falls in love with Pedro Muzquiz and when he asks Mama Elena for her hand in marriage, she refused and offered her other daughter, Rosaura instead. The whole novel is focused on Tita and Pedro’s struggles to keep their love.

Almost whimsical and mythical, it also celebrates home cooking. Similar to love, it has power to feed, nourish, comfort and destroy.

It has an extremely feminist theme–all male characters are not dealt with depth. Throughout the story, they are moved like pawns here and there, almost like embellishments to the strong female characters.

“Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them all by ourselves, just as in the experiment, we need oxygen and a candle to help. In this case, the oxygen, for example, would come from the breath of the person you love, the candle could be any kind of food, music, caress, word, or sound that engenders the explosion that lights one of the matches. For a moment we are dazzled by an intense emotion. A pleasant warmth grows within us, fading slowly as time goes by, until a new explosion comes along to revive it. Each person has to discover what will set off those explosions in order to live, since the combustion that occurs when one of them is ignited is what nourishes the soul. That fire, in short, is its food. If one doesnt find out in time what will set off these explosions, the box of matches dampens, and not a single match will ever be lighted. If that happens, the soul flees from the body and goes to wander among the deepest shades, trying in vain to find food to nourish itself, unaware that only the body is left behind, cold and defenseless, is capable of providing that food.”

Ive seen the movie adaptation of Like Water for Chocolate when I was 11, but I was too young to appreciate the highly sensuous elements. I’d love to see it all over again, now that my senses have been stirred.

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