te Like Water for Chocolate EssaysThe Significance of Food in Like Water for Chocolate
Food equals memory and memory equals immortality. In the recipes we
pass down from generation to generation, in the food of our mothers, we
reawaken the past and make the present more real. In the novel, Like
Water for Chocolate, food is about history – with handed down recipes, the
chef can remember the past. When Tita cooked, she could remember Nacha and
her mother. Food is a major part of the story, and it is somewhat obvious as
the title itself is about food.
The title (Like Water for Chocolate) itself, is a Mexican
expression that refers to the making of hot chocolate: Water is used rather
than milk, and must be brought to a vigorous boil. Therefore, an extremely
agitated person is said to be “like water for chocolate,” so is a person in
a state of sexual arousal.
A recurring symbol in Like Water for Chocolate is food (the title
is a good tip-off of that). Hardly a scene goes by without someone eating
or preparing a meal and some of the more hilarious sequences surround a
pair of banquets. Each of these scenes has a meaning beyond the obvious,
however. Food is equated with life and excitement, two subjects into which
this story pursues. Sex, food and magic are mixed in sparingly in the
story, which revolves about Tita, third daughter of a Elena.
The time is the early 1900’s and the Mexican Revolution is raging,
but in the kitchen of the family ranch, the emphasis is on cooking. The
family servant, Nacha, Tita’s surrogate mother, teaches the her secrets and
makes her the next in an ancient line of great family chefs. From Nacha
and her mother Tita learns the art of cooking. While all the food did not
center around Tita, most of it was. Even from the time of birth of Tita
she was a part of the cooking, for example when she was born and Nacha
scooped up the salt left behind from the broken water of Mama Elena after
the birth of Tita. This salt was used by Nacha in the foods for months.
So it seems Tita was destined from the beginning to learn the traits of
cooking since her birth, making her emotional connection to the food she
cooked later in her life a new form of realism.
By family tradition, Tita, as the youngest daughter, is fated to
care for her mother till her mother’s death. She cannot marry, cannot have
children. And yet she falls in love with Pedro who, when he is refused
Tita’s hand, marries her sister Rosaura instead. Tita was ordered to
prepare her sister’s marriage feast, and is seen as cooks shedding tears
into the batter for the wedding cake, which subsequently makes all the
guests sick, wretched and nauseated. Later, when Pedro and Rosaura have
taken up residence at the ranch, Tita creates a dish with quails and rose
petals, and through it conquers Pedro’s heart. The food overtook pedro
with love, lust and desire, ending with sex between him and Tita later that
evening. Everybody in the family gets turned on, especially Tita’s sister
Gertrudis, whose body becomes so hot she sets the shower stall on fire, and
is subsequently picked up on horseback, naked, by a Mexican revolutionary.
She will, as you might expect, live happily ever after.
There are few scenes where food does not play a role. From wedding
cake to watermelon, food is abundant throughout the
story. And through the food different emotions are carried. The role of
food seems to also shadow the roles of the rest of the characters in the
story, since without the use of this food to convey an added sense of power
over the story, the story itself would not be as interesting for the most
part. All depending on where the food originated from (chef) and/or the
chef’s emotions during the preparation process. Tita communicates her
feeling through the food, and she really seems to transform the food with
her own emotions.