December 6, 1996
1. Discuss the 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, make the present more real, perhaps capture a bit of the future. Food is about history, with handed down recipes such as in Like Water for Chocolate, the chef can remember the past. Tita when she cooked could remember, Nacha and her mother. Food is a major part of the story, and 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 is seems as though no scene where food is not a part of in some way. 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.