In Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, food and the kitchen is a means of expressing a range of human emotions.
Like Water for Chocolate opens with its most important central setting, the kitchen. Onion-induced weeping quite literally sweeps the protagonist, Tita, into the world, as she is born in the kitchen, crying, amidst of flood of her mother's tears. Her mother, Mama Elena, is unable to produce milk (due to shock at the recent death of her husband) and Mama Elena gives Tita almost immediately to the house cook, Nacha, who rears the child in the kitchen. Surrounded by the colours, smells, and routines of Nacha's kitchen, Tita grows up understanding the world in terms of food. She enjoys her isolation in the domain of the kitchen.
“Thanks to her unusual birth, Tita felt a deep love for the kitchen where she spent most of her life from the day she was born” page 10, paragraph two.
The story of Tita's entry into the world marks the first fantastical image of Like Water for Chocolate, initiating the reader into the novel's magical realism and illustrating the intensity and improbability that characterise the events of the story. The image of Tita flowing into the world in a flood of tears prefigures the sadness and longing that will pervade her life. After Tita's birth, the flood of tears dries to leave ten pounds of salt to be collected and used for cooking. The practical attitude with which the characters greet this surreal happening helps to establish the supernatural as an accepted part of the characters' lives.
“Nacha swept aside the residue the tears had left on the red stone floor, There was enough salt to fill a ten-pound-sack- it was used for cooking and lasted a long time” page 10, paragraph two.
Outside the kitchen, Tita follows the demanding regime that Mama Elena sets for her daughters. Life is full of cooking, cleaning, sewing, and prayer. This routine is interrupted one day by Tita's timid announcement that a suitor, Pedro Muzquiz, would like to pay her a visit. Mama Elena greets this announcement with indignation, invoking the De La Garza family tradition that the youngest daughter is to remain unmarried so that she can care for the matriarch in the matriarch's old age. Tita is dismayed by this rigid tradition. Outwardly, she submits to Mama Elena's wishes, but privately she questions the family tradition and maintains her feelings for Pedro.
“ you don’t have an opinion Tita and thats all I want to hear about it. For generations, not a single in my family has ever questioned this tradition and no daughter of mine is going to be the one to start” page 15, paragraph 3
This cold hearted appraoch to Titas yearning for marriage is what makes Tita retreat into the safe realm of the ktichen,
I think the reason why magic realism was applied to food is because of how universal it is. Whereas music and art only apply to some of us, food is in all of our lives. Since magic realism is all about mixing the magic with what’s real, food is the ideal choice. We’ve all heard of metaphors exaggerating the taste of food, but Laura Esquivel’s descriptions of the effects of food are much more elaborate. It’s so descriptive that sometimes we doubt our ideals of what’s real by reading the effects of the recipes. By using food as the medium the author was able to smoothly meld together the magical and real aspects of each chapter.
Her isolated childhood in the kitchen gives Tita an outlook on life different from that of her sisters, Gertrudis and Rosaura, and she comes to develop different ideals for herself as she matures. As a young woman, Tita rebels against the family tradition that confines her to a life without love. Her insistent questioning (even though she does not petition Mama Elena directly) of her lot in life can be identified as one...