Set in the Mexican Revolution, Laura Esquivel’s first novel taps into a world of family tradition and sexual liberation. The story has a backbone of recipes that hold the narrative together, taking you on a journey through the trials and tribulations of Tita de la Garza and her family.
Starting from January and working through to December, each recipe ties in with an event in the family and as you read it you can almost imagine yourself sitting alongside the narrator as she cooks, telling tales of her great aunt Tita. In each chapter we learn something new about cooking and the risks of preparing the ingredients in the wrong way. When the love of her life is set to marry her sister, Tita is left to make the wedding cake. Feeling her heart breaking, she cries so much that the cake mix becomes soggy and when all the guests eat the cake they are so overcome with longing that everyone is left dazed by a fit of vomiting. Although at times the magical realism that Esquivel uses can take you by surprise, it works to remind you of the mythical nature of the story. She conjures up such powerful images that the emotion behind the story is really intensified.
When it comes down to it Like Water for Chocolate is a love story, but the main love of Tita’s life is for cooking. Brought up in a kitchen by the family cook, Tita learns all the family secrets and home remedies, a tradition that the rest of her family has no time for. By the end of the novel you can’t help but wish that you had a book of recipes handed down through generations. It is by far the most interesting and thought provoking recipe book that you will ever read.