Laura Esquivel’s bestselling first novel, Like Water for Chocolate is a mouth-watering tale of love, passion and food. I give it 5 enthusiastic stars.
Tita, the youngest of three daughters lives in constant fear of Mama Elena. Since her husband’s untimely death, Mama Elena has ruled with an iron fist. Tita is raised with the help of the loving cook Nacha and spends most of her time growing up in the kitchen. It is there that Tita can seek some refuge from the harsh Mama Elena. As Tita gets older, the strict rules of her mother seem impossible to live by, for she has fallen in love. When Pedro comes to ask for her hand in marriage, Tita’s mother refuses, saying that her youngest daughter must never marry and must care for her until she dies. In a naïve act of love, Pedro agrees to marry Tita’s older sister Rosaura just so that he can be near Tita, the love of his life, forever. It is when Tita is forced by her mother to make her sister’s wedding cake that her strange magic in the kitchen comes to light. Grieving and distraught, her tears fall into the batter and every guest who eats the wedding cake the following day is overcome with sickness and misery. Tita continues to spend her time in the kitchen, as the head chef, and her emotions are transferred into whatever dish she is creating. Whether it is lust, anger or love, Tita’s deep feelings go right into her food and then into whoever eats it. Set in turn of the century Mexico, Like Water for Chocolate is an exquisite novel that will leave you intrigued and hungry.
One of the best things about this book is the recipes that begin each chapter. From Quail in Rose Petal Sauce to Cream Fritters. There’s even a recipe for making matches. This novel is tender, heartbreaking and satisfying. It’s a story for anybody who has ever had mother issues (Mama Elena is unbelievable) or longed for something they could never have. It is a Mexican Cookbook and tall tale put together. If you enjoy the book, you will probably enjoy the movie as well. The Spanish version with English subtitles is a fantastic portrayal of the book, probably because the author’s former husband made the film. But please read the book first. Like Water for Chocolate is a story of love, captivity, sex and war-the kind between countries- and families.
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I adore the magical realism, as well as the heart-wrenching romance. If you haven’t yet read it, give it a try. It might just become your favorite, too.
Originally posted with Writers News Weekly in 2009.