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What do you get when you mix the Mexican Revolution, feminism, family drama, adultery, secret forbidden loves, magical realism, mulatto babies, and aphrodisiac heavy recipes? A complex, steaming hunk of a novel from screenwriter-turned-novelist Laura Esquivel.
Ms. Esquivel's biological and culinary roots are distinctly Mexican. Like Water for Chocolate was originally published in 1990 in Spanish and was later made into a film and translated into English, becoming a national bestseller. We all know how much Americans love their books-turned-movies (Pride and Prejudice, Twilight, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, etc.), and we have a feeling that the steamy sex scenes enticed a large amount of readers and viewers.
But, hey, it's not all about sex. Just 90%. (We joke.) But seriously, there are a lot of deeper issues going on beneath the surface level of yummy food and caliente romances. The De la Garza family is anything but a cohesive, lovey-dovey unit. Take Mama Elena, the matriarch and ranch owner. She's more of a dictator than a mom and her physical and psychological abuse of her youngest daughter, Tita, makes us continuously smack our heads and say que pena.
Then there's this thing with men being machismo. Like Pedro, who marries his wannabe lover's (Tita) older sister, Rosaura, or rebel soldier Juan, who literally scoops up middle child Gertrudis and has his way with her cause, you know, she needs it. And that's just the tip of the Mexican iceberg.
Folks, this is not just a book of recipes, or romances, or home remedies. It's a coming-of-age story of Tita, a culinary gifted girl who longs to escape her mother's strict rules and a wild Mexico tale where almost every page drips with savory nuggets of heartache, drama, fairy tales, and mythology. We're betting that there's something for everyone in this book, so grab a batch of chocolate mole, some tortilla chips and get ready for an adventure.
As so many TV networks today have discovered, people really, really like food. Think about it: why are shows like Top Chef, Chopped, Iron Chef, Cake Boss, and the like pulling in such large audiences? Because we, like you, love all things food. We like eating, reading, watching, talking, and playing with our food. A la Julia Child, Laura Esquivel taps into the things that all humans have in common—the need to eat and the desire to share.
What we're trying to say is, food isn't just food in this book, nor is it in life. It is, and always will be, at the very least, a means for survival, and at the very best, inspiration, a means for communication, a way to pass on traditions and history of a culture or of a family. Think of the last supper. Think of Thanksgiving. Think of Three Kings Day.
Food; it's what's for dinner, but it's also what brings people from very different walks of life to the same table. It's what makes you close their eyes, sit back, rub your stomach, and say mmmm. It can cause fights, it can turn people on. It can lead to violence, make us sick, make us delirious. It can open up painful memories, or create new ones that we'll never shake.
For Tita, it's her entire life. Born and raised in the kitchen, she learns to express herself with her cooking and is both a provider and nurturer. Her skills are so mad that her nibbles can make cold-hearted Mama E cry and throngs of wedding guests fling themselves at each other in lust. In effect, despite being trapped on the ranch, Tita proves herself a survivor.
Getting to Know You
A short, sweet, and simple biography of Ms. Esquivel herself.
On the Big Screen
The official website for the 1993 film adaptation of the novel. It was nominated for an Oscar, so you know it's probably good.
Como Agua para Chocolate (1993)
Don't worry—there are subtitles.
The Movie's Number 1 Biggest Fan
Read their take.
They're Big Fans
The New York Times was absolutely smitten with Esquivel in 1993.
A super 90's trailer for the film adaption.
Food for the Gods
Watch and learn how to make quail in rose petal sauce.
The Author in Her Natural Habitat
At her desk.
A Diego Rivera-esque Cover for the Novel
A Poster for the Movie
Very steamy. Very 90's.