Study Guide

Like Water for Chocolate Food

By Laura Esquivel

Food

As we mentioned earlier in the "Why Should I Care?" section, food is so much more than what's on your plate in Like Water for Chocolate.

Course Number One: Eggs

Eggs. Small, white, delicious, perfect for breakfast tacos and huevos rancheros. Who doesn't like a good egg? Well, if it's soft-boiled and you're Tita De la Garza, you definitely don't. Mama Elena forced her to eat them as a child, kinda like how our mothers forced us to eat broccoli.

So, eggs bring up bad memories for Tita, but on the other hand, they're an important ingredient found in many of her recipes. The first item on the egg list? Chabela Wedding Cake for Rosaura and Pedro's ceremony.

We know this cake is going to be anything but eggcellent (har har) when we read this:

[…] the egg whites reminded [Tita] of the testicles of the chickens they had castrated the month before. (2,78)

Yikes.

What eggsactly is going on with this food? It causes pain and grief, sure, but also, if we didn't have eggs we wouldn't have the cake, the cream fritters, the Three Kings' Day Bread.

Course Number Two: Onions

Take care to chop the onion fine. (1, 1)

In the first line of the novel we find a tear-inducing symbol. For us normal folk, a bit of misty eyes is normal, but for Tita, onions cause her to cry, sob, weep, and bring on literal rivers.

Having her emotions so strongly tied to food and the kitchen allows Tita to express herself and cast spells over her diners. Tears are a seasoning for food, and Tita's are powerful enough to make grown men weep like babies. Oh, and vomit uncontrollably. Yum.

Want to know more about the power of the onion? Check out the "What's up with the Ending?" section.

Course Number Three: Roses

Remove the petals carefully from the roses, trying not to prick your fingers, for not only are the little wounds painful but the petals could soak up blood that might alter the flavor of the dish and even produce dangerous chemical reactions. (3,155)

Talk about an understatement. It seems as though Tita's blood is a most powerful Viagra… And while this may seem like an obvious and, let's face it, cliché, symbol for love, Esquivel does a nice job of using the flowers in an unconventional, unforgettable, and sexy way.

In one of the most visual scenes of the entire book, a bouquet of roses from Pedro to Tita leads to a most enticing dish, quail in rose petal sauce:

With that meal it seems they had discovered a new system of communication, in which Tita was the transmitter, Pedro the receiver and poor Gertrudis the medium […]. (3,179)

The roses are a symbol not only of sexuality and sexual desire, they also lead to the freedom of Gertrudis from the ranch and Mama Elena's rule. Roses are also an example of how expressing your sexuality and having sex (safely, please) can lead to or cause liberation.

For Gertrudis, this is certainly the case. While working in a brothel may not seem like the most progressive of jobs, she chooses it for herself. And what does she do afterward? She fights like a man, among men, becoming a general who men have to listen to and obey. And to think it all started with a pretty little flower…

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