Hispanic Cuisine: A Significant Ingredient in Like Water for Chocolate
Eating is a fundamental activity. Food, itself, is a major component of survival, for without it there would be no life on this earth. Throughout the evolution of man, it has come to have a greater importance with multiple significances to human beings. In fact, it has become a defining factor for families, classes, and cultures all through history. Hispanic societies are no exception. Furthermore, Hispanic women writers have written articles, screenplays, and novels using cuisine as their driving force. A great example is Laura Esquivel’s novel, Like Water For Chocolate. First of all, the title of the novel makes reference to food, but it also has a deeper meaning. Images of heat and fire permeate the novel as expressions of intense emotion. Heat is necessary during the preparation of many foods. In the science of cooking, heat is a force to be used precisely; the novel's title phrase "like water for chocolate," refers to the fact that water must be brought to the threshold of boiling and lowered three times before cacao powder can be added to make hot chocolate. However, the many forms of heat involved in the tale cannot be so controlled. Heat is used as a symbol for desire and physical love throughout the narrative. Some example can be found in Gertrudis' rush to the ranch showers then escape from the entire ranch itself, in Pedro's lust for Tita, and the death of Pedro after he and Tita passion is finally realized. This heat is used as a source of power and one of destruction. The epitome of this detail in the novel, where death and desire are paired together, occurs when the love between Tita and Pedro is actualized. Secondly, the recurrence of recipes of Hispanic delicacies throughout Esquivel’s book parallels their importance in Mexican culture. Anne Goldman asserts that “the very domestic and commonplace quality of cooking makes it an attractive metonym for culture” (Lawless 213). It is no coincidence that the setting of this novel takes place at the same time as the Mexican Revolution. This event was an important modernizing force in Mexican history and is considered to be “the crucible of social cohesion…in modern Mexico” (Pilcher 88). As a result of the revolution, a unifying national identity was desired. Defining cultural cuisines go hand in hand with cultural definitions. Like forming a national identity, or writing a novel, deciding on recipes that will define a nation is a long process. The recipes, that Esquivel ultimately chose to be included, represent the Mexican culture well and show their importance in defining it. Like most nationalities, there are delicacies that the Hispanic culture is known for. As mentioned above, in her novel, Esquivel makes reference to several traditional Hispanic recipes. These recipes introduce each chapter and assist in continuing the novel’s flow. Through these cuisines, the narrator is able to associate another anecdote that forces the tale to carry on. Without the food, the story would be at a stand still because so much of the narrative revolves around the food. Moreover, Esquivel’s usage of magic realism enhances the importance of the mentioned cuisines. Not only does she mention the food, it also has a profound affect on those that consume the entrees. Therefore, they have a profound affect on the entire story itself. One notable example is the Chabela Wedding Cake Tita bakes for the unfortunate union of Pedro and, her sister, Rosaura. The release of her tears in the batter is a release of the immense loss she feels. Because of this added ingredient, the guests who consume the cake are overwhelmed by the same emotion that Tita feels. Making anecdotes, such as this one, in connection with a certain dish, impresses a lasting memory of these dishes in the reader. Also, Hispanic culture places an importance in the transfer of recipes from one generation down to the...
Cited: Esquivel, Laura. Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances and Home Remedies. Trans. Christensen Christensen. New York: Double Day, 1992.
Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe. Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food. New York: The Free Press, 2002.
Jaffe, Janice. “Hispanic American Woman Writers’ Novel Recipes and Laura Esquivel’s Como Agua Para Chocolate.” Women’s Studies 22.2 (1993): 217+.
Lawless, Cecelia. “Cooking, Community, Culture: A Reading of Like Water for Chocolate” Recipes for Reading: Community Cookbooks, Stories, Histories. (1997) 213-21.
Pilcher, Jeffrey M. Que vivan los tamales!: Food and the Making of Mexican Identity. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998.
Sceats, Sarah. Food, Consumption and the Body in Contemporary Women’s Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
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