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Like Water for Chocolate: The Important Role of Food

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Like Water for Chocolate:

The Important Role of Food

Full of love, passion, family tradition and mouth-watering recipes, Laura Esquivel's "Like Water for Chocolate" is seasoned with magical intensity that will leave your heart boiling. This book expresses the value of true Mexican family tradition and how a girl's passion for cooking can affect the loved ones around her. Tita, a girl who is destined to a solitary life due to family customs, is brought into the world in what comes to be the one and only way she knows how to express herself. She was born on the kitchen table and was raised by the sweetest smelling meals known to man. Un-denounced to her, she was meant to remain in the kitchen, where she would become a servant until the death of her mother. As the plot thickens, magical events unfold and the reader begins to wonder about the importance of recipes, which helps show, Tita's emotions.

The use of food in this novel has numerous meanings, and Laura Esquivel uses each and every one with careful thought and planning. First Esquivel expresses the importance of the De La Gaza customs when Tita is offered the hand of Pedro, but must refuse when Mama Elena says, "you know perfectly well that being the youngest daughter means you have to take care of me till the day I die" (Esquivel 10). Tita is devastated by this inhumane tradition and becomes extremely saddened. Mama Elena is very strict on this idea because it had been an unbroken tradition, which is made obvious when she says to Tita, "For generations, not a single person in my family has ever questioned this tradition, and no daughter of mine is going to be the one to start" (11). This is a very important ritual to Mama Elena and no matter how cruel it seems she is determined to follow through on it. The tradition carries out through the story and when Tita becomes sick of the horrible destiny that lies before her, she addresses the issue to Mama Elena in a disrespectful manor. Tita says to Mama Elena, "Here's what I do with your orders! I'm sick of them! I'm sick of obeying you!" (99). When Mama Elena hears this she believes Tita has gone crazy and sends her off with Dr. John Brown to an asylum. Little does Mama Elena know that John Brown never takes Tita to the asylum, but instead takes her to his own home. While Tita was staying with John Brown she would not talk at all; this bothers John Brown and he tries a little game that his Kikapu grandmother had taught him. Tita simply writes the reason she would not talk on the wall using Phosphorus. After John finds out that Tita simply did not want to talk, Chencha, his saving grace brings a remedy that always makes the family feel better: ox-tale soup. This proves to help Tita because "after tasting a spoonful of soup that Chencha had made and brought to Dr. John Brown's house, Tita had returned to her senses"(123). All that Tita needed was a connection to her roots.

Laura Esquivel proves, in addition to the importance of family tradition, Tita's emotions play a significant part in the recipes that she so carefully prepares. When Tita discovers that Pedro agrees to the marriage to her sister instead of her, she experiences true sadness. As she is preparing the cake for Rosaura and Pedro's wedding, her tears fall into the frosting. Once the wedding reception occurs, we find out for the first time that Tita can put her emotions into the food she is preparing, which affects anybody that happens to eat it. Upon tasting the cake, the guests began to weep and cry as the author states, "but the weeping was just the first symptom of a strange intoxication-an acute attack of pain and frustration-that seized the guests and scattered them across the patio and the grounds and in the bathrooms, all of them wailing over lost love"(39). Laura Esquivel makes it prominent throughout the rest of the story that Tita's feelings are expressed through the food she prepares. This is a very important part of the story, because, as Tita lives her life in the kitchen, food is the only way she knows how to express herself and without these recipes she would be lost. Later in the story, Tita becomes angry with her sister Rosaura and they start to fight about how Pedro and Tita have been "sneaking around kissing in every corner" (214). Once Tita hears this, Rosaura follows it by saying that Tita can no longer be a part of her or Esperanza's life. This infuriates Tita but at the same time deeply hurts her.

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