The Significance of Food in "Like Water for Chocolate"

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The Significance of Food in "Like Water for Chocolate"

Carlos Vela

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...
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